Local immigrant and refugee centres are bracing for refugees who could potentially resettle on the Island by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year. The Immigrant Services Society of B.C said the province will only see 400 refugees by the end of the year, a far cry from the 3,500 originally project.
David Lau, executive director of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, said based on past settlement patterns, roughly 10 per cent or roughly 40 of B.C.’s newcomers could settle in the south Island.
“Victoria is a peaceful and quiet place. Keep in mind that many of these wonderful new neighbours we will be receiving are also from small towns, hamlets and villages,” he said, adding they’ve been in touch with provincial and federal authorities with suggestions on how to successfully roll out a resettlement strategy locally.
“Some refugees who have undergone trauma don’t need to be in loud busy cities. No one needs to be re-traumatized.”
In preparation for the new refugees, the society coordinated a three-day training session at the University of Victoria.
More than 55 counsellors and psychotherapists were taught the correct diagnosis and interventions for refugees who have suffered trauma.
In addition, the society is also interviewing and maintaining a list of therapists who will work as volunteers at a therapy centre it hopes to establish.
Jean McRae, executive director of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, said the association is waiting to see how many refugees will arrive on the Island and what the process will be, before it makes increases to capacity and services.
“We know that we would have to ramp up services for a larger than normal arrival of people in our region,” she said, adding the association provides a full range of settlement services including language instruction, settlement, integration services and employment services. “Our preference is to know the number, so we know what to plan for.”
Since photos surfaced of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach after the boat his family were on from Turkey to Greece capsized, a number of local groups have sprung into action to sponsor families to bring to Victoria.
However, there has been backlash to the government’s plan. According to a recent poll, 51 per cent of Canadians disagree with the government’s plan to accept Syrian refugees. An online petition has been circulating across the country to stop the 25,000 refugees from settling in Canada, amidst concerns the proper screening process will not be completed. More than 40,000 people have signed the petition so far.