Refugee coalition starts letter campaign

volunteers, who have worked hard to make sure they have suitable accommodations, furnishings, clothing and more, have been sitting in limbo.

The stranglehold on bringing refugees to Salmon Arm seems to be easing a little, with one refugee family arriving last Friday and two more due within the next several weeks.

But the trickle of arrivals is not fast enough for members of the Salmon Arm Refugee Coalition.

Coalition co-founder Brian Ayotte says the group decided last week to ask members of the community to take part in a letter-writing campaign, asking John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, to speed up the process and increase resources.

As he has several times in recent months, Ayotte took issue with the withdrawal of federal staff from the Middle East refugee camps once the government had reached the 25,000 target set during the election.

Because of the slowdown, volunteers, who have worked hard to make sure they have suitable accommodations, furnishings, clothing and more, have been sitting in limbo, even paying for rent on unoccupied housing.

Every one of the families destined to Arrive in Salmon Arm have been properly vetted by both the United Nations and the Canadian government.

As well as asking McCallum to expedite the process for these families, the coalition encourages letter-writers to ask the minister to increase the immigration staff in and resources to the levels in place 12 years ago.

At that time, immigration offices in every province in the country were closed and service amalgamated in one office in Winnipeg.

“This community has responded with great generosity and expense and we need to go back to the resources of 12 years ago so we can do this sooner rather than later,” Ayotte says.

He says that at any one time, there are some 60 million refugees in the world, not just from Syria but from Asia and South America, and the coalition is planning to keep on working to give refugees a new home.

That’s not looking too positive at this time.

Ayotte says the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nelson, the sponsorship agreement holder through which the arrival of several Salmon Arm refugee families has been arranged, has been told their limit for this year is six.

“That’s not six families,” says a frustrated Ayotte. “That’s just six people for the whole Okanagan-Kootenay region.”

Letters in support of the coalition should be addressed to Hon. John McCallum, Minister of Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, 365 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 1L1.