Shuswap residents challenge complaints, misconceptions around refugees

Arriving with permanent resident status, families receive same benefits as other Canadians

Do refugees get a free ride at the expense of Canadian citizens?

The answer from two Shuswap citizens who have been involved with supporting refugees in Salmon Arm is an unequivocal “No!”

This despite seemingly constant complaining that the government should close the borders to refugees, that refugees are admitted without oversight, that they get a free ride and get funds that should go to Canadians only.

Cindy Derkaz, Federal Liberal candidate for North Okanagan-Shuswap, has been involved in a private capacity since the community first began to welcome refugees to Salmon Arm.

The private group she belongs to has supported four families, who were lucky to escape the Syrian civil war and might otherwise still be living in the hell of an overcrowded refugee camp in the Middle East. Final arrangements are being made for a fifth family.

Read more: Syrian refugees fear for lives at home

Read more: Shuswap’s first Syrian refugee wants world to stop dictatorship

“Basically, they get the same as a person receiving social assistance in the province in which they settle; in B.C. it’s based on the provincial social assistance rates,” she says, noting many Syrian refugees enter the country in the federal Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) program in which a sponsor group takes on the responsibility to make sure the family gets adequate food and housing for one year. “They arrive with permanent resident status and are eligible for the federal Canada child benefit as are all Canadian residents.”

BVOR provides funding for half a year and the sponsoring group signs a contract for the the other half. But Derkaz notes what the program includes is not sufficient to cover housing in Salmon Arm. So the support group steps up to provide further support.

“It’s the generosity of members of the community that supports the family,” she says. “There is an extensive screening process by the UN and Canadian Immigration for people coming from the camps,” she says. “If you just cross the border, you don’t get admitted. And there is very intensive health screening.”

Read more:Syrian refugee responds to racism in Canada

Derkaz says the refugees are coming from very vulnerable circumstances, hoping for what everyone does – a better future for their children.

Brian Ayotte, who was chair of the community group that banded together to provide sanctuary to Syrian refugees, says at the outset a few families had their airfare paid by Ottawa.

“Since then every family has to repay; it is a debt to the federal government,” he says. “The majority of the Syrian families are working; some may have seasonal lapses, but there is not one on the dole.”

Read more: Shuswap refugee family settles into new, more hopeful life

Ayotte debunks the theory that some Canadians are suffering because of the financial assistance refugees are receiving and warns against erecting a wall to keep them out.

“I think it’s very easy to create false stories about people that you don’t want here; I’m not gonna call it racism, but I think there are people who don’t want anyone of a different religion or colour to be here in Canada, so they generate false stories,” he says, calling the refugee crisis a global concern. “Our security is based on the global state and anything we can do for the desperate 65 million refugees is going to help us in the long run because we’re all connected.”


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Mohamed Davud and his three-year-old son, Imram, enjoy a meal. The Kurdistani family came to Canada from a refugee camp in Turkey and are enjoying their new life in Salmon Arm.-Image credit: Brian Ayotte Mohamed Davud and his three-year-old son, Imram, enjoy a meal. The Kurdistani family came to Canada from a refugee camp in Turkey and are enjoying their new life in Salmon Arm. Davud has been employed but is on temporary leave after breaking his leg. (Brian Ayotte photo)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Dining moose a welcome distraction at Salmon Arm campus

Pair feast on willows, unperturbed by onlookers at Okanagan College

Woman convicted in Salmon Arm love triangle murder granted escorted temporary absences

Monica Sikorski was 17 when she plotted shooting death of 22-year-old Tyler Myers

Shuswap’s water rescue crew preparing for frigid temperatures

New training follows Dec. 9 mission to help a man suffering health problems at remote cabin

Shuswap outdoor skating rinks open to public

Rinks in Celista and Silver Creek ready for outdoor fun

Slight drop in annual Salmon Arm bird count, seed sales spike

Shuswap Naturalist Club bird spotters excited to see several owls

Older Canadians highlighted in Kelowna film project to fight ageism

The project is part of a campaign to combat ageism

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Princeton – a Prince Town in waiting?

The Town of Princeton has been waiting 160 years for a Royal… Continue reading

Group builds shelters for Vernon’s stray cats

Twenty insulated cat shelters were constructed by volunteers and delivered around town

UBCO partners with Boeing to test new anti-ice coating technology

The coating could one day be applied to all airplanes to prevent ice buildup

Revelstoke already double last year’s snowfall

The city is just below halfway to the snowiest winter on record

True Stories: Okanagan memoir-writers, reading

Reading with local North Okanagan writers Art Dalton, Patti Shales Lefkos, Raven Dahl, Janelle Hardy

Kelowna’s last video store, Leo’s Videos, to remain open despite failed sale

Kelowna’s last video rental store will remain open and under its namesake’s ownership

Most Read