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Windsor preparing to receive undetermined number of Syrian refugees

Windsor's financial district
wikimedia user Tkgd2007

The public debate about welcoming refugees from Syria isn’t just happening here in the States. Canada is planning to receive 25,000 Syrian refugees over the next three months.

This week, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens joined with municipal leaders from all across Canada for a meeting in Ottawa to hear the newly elected Liberal Party of Canada's plans for resettling the refugees.

Dilkens tells us the Canadian government has made a commitment to accept 10,000 refugees by the end of December, but municipalities are waiting to learn exactly how many people they should prepare for.

He estimates Windsor will accept between 200 and 600 refugees.

“We’re working hard behind the scenes right now with all of the critical resources, being housing, of course, being education, being skills training and language training, those people are all working together to try and ramp up everything they need to be able to support the families that arrive here … but clearly knowing the actual number will be very, very important for us,” Dilkens said.

Dilkens says the two biggest challenges Windsor faces in preparing for these refugees are housing and employment.

“Unfortunately the City of Windsor is suffering from high unemployment today,” Dilkens said, “Obviously when you settle newcomers into your community you want them to be successful, and finding work is one of those elements that helps them become successful. So it is a challenge for us, but we’ll work through all the issues and do the best we can to provide a better life for folks when they get here.”

He says that accepting large numbers of refugees is “just part of who we are as Canadians," But, just like any democracy, he says there are people who don’t agree with the government’s position. The reasons for their opposition range from issues of employment to security, but Dilkens is confident that Windsor and the rest of Canada will be able to meet these concerns to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Syrian refugees settling in Canada will be financially supported by the federal government for their first year in the country, Dilkens said. They will receive a stipend for housing, clothing and food so that they may spend as much time as possible receiving language and skills training “in order to become productive members of the community,” he says.

Dilkens expects to learn within the next two weeks how many refugees are coming to Windsor and when they will arrive.

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