With refugees expected to start arriving in Canada as early as next week, the Government of Saskatchewan says they still don`t know exactly how many are coming to the province.
Minister of Immigration, Jobs, Skills and Training Jeremy Harrison attended meetings in Ottawa this week with federal ministers, as well as his provincial counterparts.
He said everyone had the same questions for the feds as far as how refugees would be distributed between the provinces and when they would be coming.
Harrison said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was able to tell him broadly that the first planes were expected in Canada sometime next week. But he couldn`t confirm what the province could expect in terms of numbers or timelines
“It does pose a difficulty and we`ve been asking these questions for some time now and it`s a bit frustrating in that we are not being provided answers,” he said.
Harrison did acknowledge that the federal government was facing challenges as it tries to bring thousands of refugees to Canada. Specifically, he said some of the issue around nailing down specific times when people will arrive is due to waits for exit visas for people in Lebanon.
With no official number, Harrison said the province is making its plans using a working estimate of 850 people.
“We would be expecting about 850, which is our proportional allocation given our population size,” he said.
Harrison said he also asked for more money to help with housing and English language training. He noted that refugees generally get money equivalent to a province’s normal social assistance. He said that would be about $750 a month for a family of five, which could make getting people housed in cities like Saskatoon or Regina difficult.
On English as Second Language (ESL) training, he said the current system is already strained.
“We have bottlenecks right now in terms of ESL, and this is across the country – it’s not just Saskatchewan. It’s a challenge for newcomers, refugees particularly,” he said.