Speech Article from  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Speaking notes for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship at the Plenary Session of the UNHCR's High-Level Meeting on Pathways for Admission of Syrian Refugees

Geneva, Switzerland
March 30, 2016

As delivered

Thank you, High Commissioner, and it’s a pleasure for me to be able to speak to you again.

Canada is eager to continue to do its part to resettle Syrian refugees in partnership with other countries, the UNHCR, the IOM, other civil society organizations, the private and public sectors and communities within and outside our country.

Canada has resettled more than 29,300 Syrian refugees in our country since the UNHCR’s first pledging conference in June of 2013. That includes the resettlement of more than 26,000 Syrian refugees in Canada in just the past few months.

We will continue to resettle refugees from Syria throughout 2016 and beyond. Indeed, by the end of 2016, we hope to have resettled about 44,800 refugees in Canada, the majority of whom – about 30,000 – will be Syrians. This represents a very large increase over our annual refugee resettlement levels from previous years – about quadruple those levels.

So in moving in 2016 to admit 44,800 refugees, we are in fact quadrupling the level from the previous years and much of that increase, of course, concerns Syrian refugees.

It’s also worth noting that 40 percent of refugees we plan to resettle this year will come to Canada through our Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Refugees sponsored privately by civil society groups and also by groups of ordinary Canadians are in addition to those who are supported by the government.

We’ve also established a hybrid private-public program which offers another pathway to welcome refugees, and that’s a model in which the private and public sectors roughly split the cost 50/50.

And we’ll continue to encourage refugees to apply to become Canadian citizens. As I said earlier, those who arrived in Montreal or Toronto recently had one-stop processing and became permanent residents within one hour of arriving, and we expect some 90 percent of them will be full citizens by – within four years.

In terms of future levels, we’re not announcing that today. We will be making plans for levels of all kinds of immigration for 2017-19 in coming months and later this year we’ll announce those levels. Today, however, I would like to announce a number of other measures, apart from levels, which we are undertaking in support of the refugee effort.

First, Canada pledges to work with other countries to provide training and technical support in order to expand the number of global resettlement spaces, coordinate humanitarian development and migration programming, and help host states to build their migration management capacity.

Next, Canada pledges to work actively with the World University Service of Canada in order to explore opportunities to expand their unique student refugee program, which enables student refugees to be resettled in Canada as permanent residents in order to pursue their studies at post-secondary institutions across our country. There was some discussion of this yesterday and I know that the – the UNHCR expressed the view that such efforts for students should operate all around the world, so I hope that this will help to initiate other such similar opportunities for refugee students in many other countries.

Canada pledges to explore stronger partnerships with our country’s private sector with a view to improving the economic immigrations of refugees into Canadian societies. This could include partnerships offering technical training or apprenticeship opportunities to refugee youth.

Finally, Canada pledges to continue to consider Syrian refugees as prima facie refugees for another year until September 2017 and to reduce the administrative requirements in our Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program by waiving the regulatory requirement for UNHCR or state determination of refugee status for sponsorship of Syrians by private sponsors.

So let me end with a quote from our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the occasion of his statement recently about Canada’s candidacy for election to the UN Security Council where he said, and I quote: “Canada is committed to playing a positive and constructive role in the world in order to advance Canadian interests and make meaningful contributions to solving global challenges.

So it’s in that spirit that Canada has made our pledge today and it is in the same spirit that we will continue to pursue solutions to ensure the humanitarian treatment and resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Thank you very much.

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Hon. John McCallum Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Government and Politics

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