Canada has been showered with accolades over how it's welcoming in Syrians, but the government revealed today that it might not hit its already reduced target of 10,000 refugees from the ravaged country by the end of the year.
That number is already a significantly smaller number than the 25,000 the governing Liberals promised to bring in during the recent election.
However, 10,000 Syrians will be processed and ready to leave for Canada by the end of 2015, Immigration Minister John McCallum told reporters in Ottawa today, having just come back from a trip to Lebanon and Jordan.
"I am convinced that by the end of the year, 10,000 or more Syrian refugees will be confirmed, certified as Canadian permanent residents," McCallum said. "The issue is whether all of those 10,000 Syrian refugees will have arrived in Canada will have their feet on Canadian soil by December 31."
With a week left until the end of the year, a plane carrying 298 refugees on its way to Montreal will push the current total to above 2,000.
Together, Montreal and Toronto's airports can support up to five 300-passenger flights a day, but McCallum says it's impossible to predict what the day-to-day schedule will be over the next few days.
"It's certainly not guaranteed," McCallum said, explaining that weather can cause cancellations and delays, and that "human nature" is also a factor. Not everyone can leave with two days notice, he said, adding that some people need time to say goodbye to their friends.
"We are moving heaven and Earth to get them here as quickly as we can," McCallum said.
He also said the government is on track to hit its target of 25,000 Syrian refugees "well before the end" of February.
As of December 21, 2,393 refugees, who haven't yet travelled to Canada, have had their applications processed. Another 19,510 refugee resettlement applications are currently in progress.
On Wednesday, in his first Christmas video message, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraged the country to show generosity to "thousands of people who are experiencing the Canadian holidays and the Canadian winter for the first time—the Syrian refugees."
"After all, we share values of love, hope and compassion — it's what we do, and it's who we are."
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