The Canadian Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights on July 4th issued a preliminary report regarding its study of the integration of the Syrian refugees, as well as the challenges faced by various levels of government, private sponsors and by non-government organizations which provide assistance to the refugees, Levant Settlement Centre (LSC) informs.
The committee made six important recommendations to the Canadian Government. The most important is the elimination of the loan program for transportation, medical exams, and related expenses.
The committee will table its full report and recommendations in the fall.
The Levant Settlement Centre (LSC) has advocated the waiver of the loan program since last January. Aris Babikian, founder and chair of the centre, was interviewed on CBC-TV on Jan. 14 where he urged the government to waive the loan. On Feb. 8, during the meeting of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, Babikian discussed the issue with the Hon. John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. Later, the LSC worked with a group of Syrian refugees to draft a petition to the minister asking him to “forgive the loan“ so that the refugees “may start their new life in Canada with clean slate and without undue financial stress.“ Babikian also raised the issue during his June 2 testimony at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship hearing.
The loan program is hampering refugees integration into the Canadian society. “Many refugee families are spending their days and nights agonizing over this issue instead of concentrating on improving their English language skills and finding a job, “ the petition to the minister stated.
“We are grateful to the Senate Committee which made such a ground-breaking recommendation. We hope that the House of Commons Committee, which conducted similar study, will also make such a recommendation, “ Aris Babikian, founder and chair of the Levant Settlement Centre stated. “By waving the loan program the Canadian Government will bring to full circle its trend-setting and outstanding humanitarian and compassionate Syrian refugee`s program and help ease their transition and settlement in their new home in Canada.“