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

Speech

Ottawa, Ontario
December 9, 2015

As delivered

Well, thank you very much and good morning. Hello everyone. I have four things to announce this morning – not necessarily all of equal importance – but four things to tell you.

First, yesterday, I met the head of the International Organization for Migration, Ambassador Bill Swing. Now this is a very important organization. It arranges all of the logistics of our refugee processes overseas, makes sure that all the refugees who are appointed to come to interviews, come, and most importantly, arranges for all of the leasing of the planes that we will use to fly the refugees to Canada. So they have done a fantastic job, because this has been an operation faster than the normal one, and their help has been absolutely essential for us to get this job done.

The next thing is: This is the first part of a technical briefing, and I will give you a few statistics, and the public servants who will follow me will give you more. But I can tell you that as of now, we have 11,932 applications in process. We have 1,451 permanent resident visas issued, and interestingly, in both Beirut and Amman, Jordan, we are processing people at the rate of 400 per day. So that's 800 per day, if you combine the two countries. So this is a pretty good clip, and I think it is a good sign for us in terms of getting this job done.

And perhaps most interestingly is the question of exit visas from Lebanon because throughout this process, I have said I want to take Canadians on this journey with us, to let you – and through you, Canadians – know the good points and the setbacks all along the path. And I have mentioned in the past that the difficulty of getting exit visas from Lebanon was certainly an issue. Two days ago, we were very worried about this issue, but thankfully, the Government of Lebanon has responded very well, and we now have exit visas – certainly easily enough for the first two planes to come from that part of the world to Canada.

So, I’d like to thank my colleague, Mr. Stéphane Dion, for his work, and also for the work of his diplomatic team. But above all, I would like to thank the Government of Lebanon for its assistance, in terms of this process.

So this is good news, but I want to caution you that good news for a few days doesn't necessarily signify good news all the way into the future. There is, for example, an election taking place in Lebanon tomorrow, and as we know in Canada, things sometimes change after elections, so we are guardedly optimistic that this progress on exit visas will continue, but it's not a guarantee. But certainly for the moment, I do thank the Government of Lebanon for assisting us in this process.

The third point I would like to make is that the resettlement assistance centres are essential for resettling the refugees. Once they arrive in Montreal or Toronto, they go to a resettlement assistance centres in one of 36 cities, and from there, they are settled, housed and begin a normal life in Canada. Those resettlement assistance centres play a crucial role, so I'm pleased to announce that in order to deal with this huge inflow of refugees quite suddenly, we are increasing their funding by $3.6-million, or 25 per cent.

And so, I think this increase in their budget of $3.6-million, or 25 per cent, will help them to give a warm welcome to our refugees, who will be here soon.

And the final issue I would like to comment on is the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees. We had announced this before, but word had not necessarily gotten out – not all the medical community across the country was necessarily aware. So I want to reemphasize that we have fully restored the interim federal health program for our Syrian refugees who will soon be on their way to Canada. Both the basic benefits and the supplementary benefits will be available to all of them.

And so my department will be sending out a notice today to the medical community, to provincial Health Ministers, to make sure that everybody is aware of this.

And so I think those are the four points that I wanted to make. And I’m now ready to answer your questions.

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