Saskatoon resettlement groups are revving up as Canada gets ready to accept 10,000 refugees before the end of the year.
The new target is lower than the original promise of 25,000 Syrian refugees. The number will also be split between government and privately-sponsored refugees. The remaining 15,000 will arrive in the first two months of 2016.
Any refugees who make their way to Saskatchewan will be in private housing because so far the only military bases to house refugees are in Ontario and Quebec.
In Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Open Door Society, the Global Gathering Place and the Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies are all working to resettle the hundreds of individuals who will be sent to the city.
The groups expect up to 770 of the total 25,000 refugees to make their way to Saskatoon.
“My wish would be that people aren’t afraid of the newcomers coming in,” Global Gathering Place’s Lori Steward said. “That they will prepare a welcome for them and realize that they’re bringing wonderful things with them.”
Steward said if they get more volunteers they will be able to provide all their services, including life skills, interpreters and English classes. The group deals primarily with government-sponsored refugees but does provided English lessons and other services to privately funded people.
“Primarily we’re looking for money, volunteers and we’re hoping people will sponsor families,” she said.
Other volunteer positions with Global Gathering Place include showing refugees around the city, taking them to cultural, recreation and sporting events, giving parenting classes with the Bright Start program, offering computer lessons, one-on-one mentoring and interacting with refugees to help them practice their English and ask questions. None of the jobs are full time and none require a second language.
“If somebody wants to get involved, speaking Arabic definitely not a necessity,” Steward said. “In fact, for most of these integration cases, it’s better that that happens in English.”
Global Gathering Place works closely with Open Door every time a refugee or new immigrant comes to Saskatoon. Open Door executive director Ali Abukar said the response from the community has been “overwhelming”.
She said government funding for refugees is their biggest concern and they are in close contact with the local branch of the citizenship and immigration Canada office.
“I think if all the organizations and service providers that are involved, contribute and coordinate their services, I think this is a doable undertaking,” she said.