Calgary is the first Canadian city to receive support from the Welcome Fund for Syrian Refugees.
The inaugural recipient is the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS), which will receive $600,000 to provide refugee housing support.
The CEO of the CCIS, Fariborz Birjandian, said about 900 of the expected 1,200 refugees coming to Calgary have arrived, but about 100 of them are still living in temporary housing. He said the money will help them move into permanent homes.
“We looked at the different scenarios, and we felt that if they give us $500 to supplement their families, so we can actually help 80 to 100 units. That would be about 500 o 550 people,” Birjandian said.
The fund is supported by Manulife, CN and GM.
Immigration Minister John McCallum said on Thursday, meeting housing needs of refugees continues to be an urgent priority in Calgary, and corporate partnerships like this ensure that happens.
“We have over $20 million if you count contributions in all different areas,” McCallum said. “If you count contributions only to this housing fund, I believe the number is $6.1 million.”
He said he hopes national contributions eventually top $50 million.
CN executive vice-president Shawn Finn extended a challenge to other businesses to step up.
“CN has done its share, so has Manulife,” Finn said. “The banks have done a good effort. Corporate Canada must do its share to help the Government of Canada and the Syrian refugees resettle.”
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi added this donation is just the beginning, and he too called on other businesses across the country to make sure they’re doing their part as well.
“Whether that’s through great donations like today, whether that’s ensuring that employment opportunities are available to new Canadians, whether that’s supporting people with language training in the workplace,” Nenshi said.
In total, corporations have given about $20 million nationally to help Syrian refugees.