WINNIPEG —; As Manitoba prepares to open its doors to 2,000 Syrian refugees, health professionals are concerned the province’s already bogged down resources won’t be able to handle the influx of people who could need help.
Welcome Place, Hospitality House in Winnipeg and the Aurora Recovery Centre in Gimli said services are already being stretched to the limit in terms of personal and mental healthcare.
Counsellors at Welcome Place said the best they can do in terms of offering medical help right now is to go through the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
While the province agrees there is still more work to be done before they can expect to see lower wait times for mental health resources at the stage we are already in, the Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors said it is being addressed.
READ MORE: No time to turn away refugees says Selinger
Deanne Crothers said she is already consulting with mental health professionals across the board to see where there are current gaps in the system and find out where extra resources need to be added.
Crothers could not specify a timeline as to when the province could see additional help but it is unlikely to happen before the end of the year; which is when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to allow 25,000 refugees into Canada.
On Tuesday, Premier Greg Selinger reiterated his support for the federal program for refugee settlement.
“We think suspending the program would be a mistake,” said Selinger. “With all of our non-profit, churches and citizens groups… we’ve got a co-ordination going on inside the department.”
Selinger said he is not concerned that an influx of refugees would have a strain on the province or a security issue.
“The United Nations has already cleared a lot of these people in the refugee camps. We’ve done this before,” Selinger said, citing the Vietnamese boat people or refugees who fled Vietnam by ship after the war in 1978 and 1979. “The federal government will do its due diligence on security but that’s not a reason to stop the program.”
Selinger also said Manitoba has the most refugees per capita of any province in Canada.