Many Syrian refugees struggling after 12 months in Canada

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Syrian refugees are struggling with mixed results as they transition through what many call “Month 13” in Canada.

Immigration Department evaluations of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s effort to welcome 26,000 refugees from war-torn Syria reveal high rates of unemployment, costly barriers to rental housing and difficulties shifting from Arabic to French or English.

Although many refugee families are doing relatively well after their first 12 months in Canada, when they’re supported mostly by the federal government, others are facing a range of trials as they transfer in “Month 13” to provincial welfare and other programs.

One category of refugees is doing better than others.

Just over half of the adults among the 9,000 Syrian refugees who have been privately sponsored in Canada, largely by churches and other religious organizations, have jobs, Immigration official Chantal Goyette said in a talk delivered at the March Metropolis conference in Montreal.

But only 10 per cent of the adults among the 15,000 refugees who are categorized as “government-assisted,” and who are typically less educated, have jobs in Canada, said Goyette.

British Columbia accepted about 2,500 Syrian refugees in all categories, or nine per cent of the national total, with most of the rest going to Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Vancouver’s Maggie Hosgood, who has helped coordinate more than 100 B.C. United Church congregations in welcoming refugees, said Friday that privately-sponsored refugees may do better for a range of reasons.

One advantage of private programs, Hosgood said, is the many volunteers who have been introducing Syrian refugees to local communities, potluck dinners, rental-housing options, informal language-learning opportunities, government services and job possibilities.

A wide range of Canadian Christian organizations, particularly the Catholic, United Church and Anglican denominations, have been at the forefront of privately sponsoring thousands of Syrian refugees, most of whom are Sunni Muslims. Mosques and synagogues have also been sponsors.

Read more