Speaking notes for the Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship at an announcement on Canada's plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees


Ottawa, Ontario
November 24, 2015

As delivered

Thank you, Jane (Philpott). And good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is a happy day and this is an important day for Canada because it is today that we are announcing a detailed plan to rescue 25,000 Syrian refugees from the most dire circumstances and to bring them into Canada where we will certainly welcome them with a smile. We will welcome them with a smile, but we will also equip them and their families to begin their new lives here in Canada.

In the short run, this is a wonderful humanitarian gesture by all Canadians but, in not too much time, as was the case for refugees from Vietnam and other places, our newcomer friends will find jobs and they will make a big contribution to our country. So yes, there is a short-term cost, but there is also a big long-term gain for Canada.

Now some of you may be asking why we delayed the arrival of these refugees, as was explained by my colleague, Jane Philpott. I have been saying time and time again that, yes, we want to bring them fast, but we also want to do it right. And I have heard Canadians across this country saying, yes, you have to do it right and, if it takes a little bit longer to do it right, then take the extra time.

And that’s exactly what we are doing because, when we welcome our newcomer friends with a smile, a smile alone is not sufficient. We want them to have a roof over their head. We want them to have the right supports for language training and for all the other things that they need to begin their life here in Canada.

And it takes a bit of time to put all of that in place. There are a lot of moving parts here.  So we are happy to take a little more time because that allows us to be more prepared with places for them to live, more prepared to transfer them almost immediately to places where they can be in the longer term. So that is why we have elected to take a little bit more time than originally thought to bring our new friends into this country.

And, when I say we have to be ready, that does not mean that Canadians are not ready. Because I have been reaching out to every provincial and territorial counterpart in terms of immigration ministers and over 30 mayors, and each and every one of these individuals has expressed strong support. Indeed, when I add up the numbers proposed by the various provinces, they have oversubscribed and the numbers exceed 25,000. So that does not mean they are all here, but that is a very, very good beginning.  And indeed, it is not just government people. It is also Canadians from across the land who are reaching out to show their generosity.

So I would say this is not a federal project. This is not even a government project.  This is a national project that will involve all Canadians.

So let me now turn in slightly more detail to specific things involving my own department.  I’ve already spoken about the domestic side.  Internationally, we will of course collaborate with the Governments of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. We are deeply grateful to these countries for all they have done to take in Syrian refugees – many millions of them. And we are keenly aware of the pressures their governments face because of the ongoing crisis. We’re eager to work closely with them to expedite the process of bringing refugees to Canada. Their cooperation and support will be essential, particularly when it comes to securing exit permits for refugees to leave their countries.

We will also work closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to identify registered Syrian refugees who can be resettled quickly.

And, just as a slight aside, I was delighted to hear the Head of the UNHCR on television yesterday say that, if there was any country in the world that he thought was up to the task of resettling these refugees, that country was Canada. Now all we have to do is prove him right.

So I think that covers my side of this big project, and so I’d like to now turn it over to my colleague, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

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