HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s premier said he doesn’t want to pre-judge whether Ottawa should pull back from a plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of the year.
Ottawa is responsible for handling any security concerns that arise from its screening process of refugees, according to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. Nova Scotia remains ready to proceed with welcoming newcomers once it’s determined how that will happen.
READ MORE: Should Canada stop bringing in Syrian refugees because of the Paris attacks? Experts say no.
McNeil expects many of those concerns will be addressed in a federal-provincial meeting on Monday. He made the comments following the release of a letter by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall who says the refugee plan may pose a threat to Canadian security.
“Its important that we go and meet with the federal government to identify actually what procedures and protocols have been put in place before I pre-judge what’s taken place,” he said.
READ MORE: Halifax refugee advocates aim to defuse anti-refugee sentiment following Paris attacks
On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia Immigration Department unveiled more information about its plan to settle the refugees.
The province’s 211 service line will be used to catalogue the offers of help from Nova Scotians. At a Tuesday briefing, officials said operators at the toll-free number will keep track of who is offering help, what the help is and where the person is located, so the government can draw on the help when it’s needed.
Immigration Minister Lena Diab says individuals or businesses should call the line with any offers of clothing, food,
lodging or financial donations. The greatest need is for volunteers and cash donations, explained Gerry Mills, director of operations at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS).
“If we have two hundred people arriving at the airport we need some people, we need some volunteers at the airport,” Mills said. “There’s going to be little children running around, we need some people there. And all the way through the process …there will be a need for volunteers.”
Halifax will welcome first refugees
Once refugees arrive in Nova Scotia, the goal will be to settle them in permanent housing within two weeks, said Mills.
For the most part, the first refugees will be settled Halifax. There’s enough housing in the municipality for between 600 and 700 refugees to be resettled very quickly, according to Mills.
Nova Scotia doesn’t yet know how many refugees will be resettled in the province but Mills said it’s likely half of them will be children and youth. Because of that, special attention is being put to ensuring programs and services are in place for children and youth.
Community meetings will also be held in neighbourhoods where refugees will be resettled, according to department officials.
The goal in those meetings will be to make sure residents have all the information they need and can have any questions answered. However, officials said they also want to hear from residents in the community about what the refugees should know about the neighbourhood.
With files from