WINNIPEG – Discussions are ongoing about how to best accommodate and support a rising number of immigrants that is driven in large part by Syrian refugees, say federal, provincial and territorial immigration ministers.
“I know that many provinces have expressed the same concern … regarding, when you get to the end of the federal support, what happens and what are the responsibilities,” Manitoba’s Ian Wishart said Wednesday after a closed-door meeting in Winnipeg.
“We are certainly all prepared to work with the federal government on this.”
Some 321,000 immigrants arrived in Canada in the twelve months leading up to July 1, according to Statistics Canada. The agency said it was the largest number of immigrants in an annual period since the early 1910s, when a wave of European immigrants arrived in the western provinces.
The number was driven by more than 30,000 Syrian refugees under a special program launched last year. Both levels of government have struggled at times in terms of finding housing support programs for the new arrivals.
“Many of the refugees had large numbers of children, and that was not completely anticipated in the beginning and that created some challenges for finding appropriate housing and for schools,” said John McCallum, the federal minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship.
The federal government provides language and job training, as well as social assistance payments for one year. The provinces pay for other services.
Financial support and what immigration levels should be were part of Wednesday’s talks, McCallum said.
“One of the things that I think is really good about these federal-provincial meetings … is that we have straight talk, we don’t hold back on what we really believe. But at the same time, we manage to work together,” he said.
“We know the stresses, we know the different points of view. But we still work together.”
McCallum is required by law to reveal immigration targets for next year by Nov. 1. He discussed the issue with his provincial counterparts Wednesday but would not reveal a number.
“We’ve consulted very deeply and broadly with provincial governments, but we are not in a place to announce that until Nov. 1.”