Even though Canada's new Liberal government has pushed back its original promise of bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees this year, the immigration minister announced this weekend he hopes to resettle as many as 50,000 by the end of 2016.
"Everyone in Canada is waiting to meet you," John McCallum told Syrian families on Sunday as they boarded flights from Amman to Canada. McCallum spent two days in Jordan visiting refugees and touring development projects
McCallum reaffirmed a statement he made earlier this month that Canada could welcome between 35,000 and 50,000 Syrians by next year through partnerships with the UN refugee agency, the Jordanian government, and private sponsorships.
A spokesperson for the immigration department was unable to confirm McCallum's latest comments in time for publication.
During the election, the Liberals' initially pledged to resettle 25,000 Syrians refugees by the end of this year, but had to scale that back to 10,000 due to logistical constraints. Most of those will be sponsored privately, and most of the other 15,000 — expected to arrive by next March — will be sponsored by the government.
"We are happy to take a little more time because that allows us to be more prepared … with places for them to live, more prepared to transfer them almost immediately to places where they can be in the longer term," McCallum told reporters in November.
And because the first wave began arriving by government-chartered flights on December 10, the government is racing against time to meet its goal, which would require bringing in 600 refugees every day until the end of the year.
The government has beefed up the number of personnel dedicated to the file. Around 500 staff have been flown over to Jordan and Lebanon to expedite the screening processes. The plan is expected to cost around $678 million over the next six years.
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel has repeatedly said she would press the Liberals on their plan and keep them accountable.
"It's one thing to inspire Canadians, it's another thing to be accountable to them," Rempel said. "I think it's more than a smile, it's more than hope and it's more than unicorns."
More than 1,400 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November, according to a government website tracking its #WelcomeRefugees initiative. That's on top of the more than 2,000 that are already in the country.
The US government has said it will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, but faces stiff opposition from certain governors who say they will not let any in to their respective states.
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