ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

At a news conference to announce the resettlement of additional Bhutanese Refugees

Ottawa, Ontario
March 27, 2013

As delivered

Thank you, namaste, and good afternoon. 

Thank you so much, Carl, for those kind remarks and thank you to you for the brilliant work being done by the Catholic Centre for Immigrants. Thank you to all of the staff and volunteers and donors of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants for all that they do to help.  I also want to congratulate you, Carl, on your recent election as President of the Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants, an important group of hardworking Ontarians who help to make bright new lives, bright new futures for newcomers to Ontario from all around the world.

I also want to thank all of our Bhutanese refugees for the opportunity to meet with you and to learn from you, to hear about your experiences and your challenges, but also to see how you have embraced Canada and how Canada is embracing you. Once again, on behalf of all Canadians, especially to those of you who arrived quite recently, welcome to Canada.  Welcome to your new home.  Welcome to a country where anything is possible for you and especially for your children.

You are here because Canada has a longstanding tradition of welcoming victims of persecution who need protection. Since the Second World War, Canada has provided a haven to over one million refugees. We have one of the world’s most generous refugee resettlement programs, welcoming one out of every ten refugees who are resettled worldwide. We intend to increase the number of resettled refugees we welcome to Canada, to provide a new beginning, a safe and free life to more people like you.

That is a commitment that we have to welcome upwards of 14,000 resettled refugees next year. But I’m here today to make an important announcement that affects the Canadian Bhutanese community, people like yourselves. I know that, in the last century, the Lhotshampa migrated from Nepal to Bhutan. Of course, they are traditionally of the Hindu faith who, unlike the majority of people in Bhutan, were Buddhist. 

I know you’ve told me that, starting in 1988, the Bhutanese government forced many of you to leave everything behind – your homes, your property, your jobs, your businesses, your future. And they expelled you from the country, creating a refugee crisis and that many of you lived for two decades in refugee camps in Nepal.

Over the years, Canada has been working closely with other countries and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to find viable long-term solutions to help you and the other Bhutanese. We are pleased to have been able to make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of Bhutanese refugees. 

The expulsion of your people created a refugee crisis. Some Bhutanese people have been living in limbo in refugee camps for nearly two decades. For a number of years, Canada has been working closely with other countries, and especially the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, to find viable long-term solutions to help these refugees.

Canada is now the Chair of the Bhutanese core group of the UN, which involves a coordinated effort amongst several countries to work towards a comprehensive solution for this longstanding refugee situation. In 2007, the government of Canada announced that we would resettle to Canada up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees and that’s why you’re here today.

In June 2012, we announced that we would resettle an additional 500 refugees who had family connections in Canada. I think some of you who more recently arrived came through that group. Today, I had the pleasure of meeting with you and I was deeply moved by your stories of courage and sacrifice and beginning new lives here. I was really touched by your stories of determination, and persecution in Bhutan, and of your new lives here in Canada.

So today I am pleased, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to announce that we will provide even more assistance to Bhutanese refugees. In addition to the 5,500 Bhutanese refugees we have already resettled or committed to resettling, I am pleased to announce today that Canada will resettle an additional 1,000 Bhutanese over the next two years, many of whom already have family ties here in Canada.

Canada recognizes the importance of family reunification in helping newcomers transition to successful new lives in our country. Family ties help newcomers to adjust much faster and more easily to life in Canada and, ultimately, to succeed. These refugees have endured hardship for many years, living in difficult conditions in the camps. We’re committed not only to providing a safe haven to them, but we want to help ensure they integrate successfully.

That’s why we have increased the government’s refugee assistance by 20 percent.  These increases will benefit the new Bhutanese refugees who we continue to welcome.  I have to tell you that we are continuing with a 20 percent increase in assistance for new refugees through the assistance program for government-sponsored refugees.

With today’s announcement, that Canada will resettle an additional 1,000 Bhutanese refugees, this brings the total to 6,500, like many of you, most of who have already arrived. The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Canada, Furio De Angelis, has commended Canada for this increase. He said “we welcome the government’s decision to resettle more Bhutanese refugees. By working in partnership with other countries, Canada has helped refugees who have been living in camps for more than two decades to find a new home and start their lives anew.”

So let me close by saying it is Canada’s privilege to have welcomed you. It is the privilege of Canadians to renew our special role as a land of protection. What you bring to this country is a value. You understand the value of freedom and democracy and security in a way that many Canadians take for granted. You have also brought to this country a phenomenal work ethic and devotion to family. We know that your community will make a wonderful contribution to the Canadian tapestry.  Thank you and namaste.

 

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