Time to support Syrian refugees any way we can

Between the evil of ISIS, Assad’s atrocities, and a brutal civil war, more than 4.2 million Syrians have been displaced.

Other countries around the world have stepped up to do their part. It’s time for Canada to do the same.

Our government has committed to provide sanctuary to 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February. 15,000 of those will be government-assisted. The remainder will be private sponsorships. An additional 10,000 government-assisted refugees will be resettled by the end of 2016, for a total of 25,000 government sponsorships. There is no cap on private sponsorships.

Canadian Forces flights are already bringing refugees to Toronto and Montreal. Commercial flights and charters will bring thousands more. There are thousands of private sponsorships now underway, and we expect more than 8,000 to arrive by the end of this year.

In all cases, due diligence and thorough security screenings will be conducted overseas before anyone departs for Canada. More than 400 Canadian experts in the fields of medicine, biometrics, security, and intelligence are working with our partners in the Middle East to conduct examinations of potential refugee applicants.

The Government of Canada has committed $960 million in humanitarian, development, security, and stabilization assistance to the region. $100 million has been designated to support the work of the UN Refugee Agency.

I am especially proud of our community’s recent efforts to come together in the wake of this crisis. Many neighbours have pledged both time and money to welcome refugees into our community, and I commend the work of local churches, community organizations, and hard-working, caring individuals. It is an important reminder that long-term peace is forged by a compassionate and inclusive society. I see those values as my fellow neighbours work to welcome newcomers into our community and do their part in our world.

Equally, our response to the Syrian refugee crisis is a reminder that we can and should work to put politics aside. In doing so, we have the ability to accomplish great things.

To that end I encourage everyone to attend a town hall information session on the Syrian refugee crisis on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 12 p.m. at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 11, 9 Dawes Rd.

The successful Sleepout for Syria on Dec. 5 was a shining example of how you can help raise money for this important cause. To start helping right now, I encourage you to get involved in an existing local effort. From the Upper Beaches Lifeline Syria Group to Danforth East Community Association’s efforts to raise funds for The Neighbourhood Group, there are many different groups to get involved with. The Neighbourhood Group’s existing settlement services are very worthy of any supportive efforts you may have in mind. If you are interested and uncertain how to get involved, email Nathaniel.Erskine-Smith@parl.gc.ca.

There are resources directly available from the Government of Canada. A national helpline has been established to answer questions for Canadians looking to help. Call 1-844-61 SYRIA (1-844-617-9742). Also, visit www.cic.gc.ca and check out the Donate-Volunteer-Sponsor website.

As more refugees arrive, we want to make sure everyone is fully informed about the government’s plan, and fully informed about opportunities to help locally.

I encourage everyone, in the spirit of the holiday season, to help support a refugee family and show them how lucky we are to live in Canada.

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