Don’t offload Syrian refugees on provinces, Senate committee tells feds

Ottawa – The Senate human rights committee is joining a chorus of voices raising concerns about thousands of Syrian refugees about to be shifted on to provincial assistance rolls.

Committee chairman Senator Jim Munson says the federal government has an ongoing responsibility to ensure that language training is provided so that 30,000 Syrians welcomed to Canada in the last year can successfully join the work force and society.

Federally sponsored refugees are given a year’s worth of supplementary benefits, but that assistance is about to expire and many thousands of the new arrivals still require help – which will fall to provincially funded programs.

The Senate committee is recommending that additional language training be complemented by day care so that Syrian parents can participate.

The senators are also concerned about mental health provisions for war-torn Syria’s refugees, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress compounded by isolation in a new country.

Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, who arrived in Canada as a Vietnamese refugee in 1975, said the overwhelming response the committee heard from Syrians is their desire to work and contribute to society – and that learning one of Canada’s official languages is the key.

The Canadian Press

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