Communities across Canada are gearing up to welcome Syrian refugees this fall as the pace of arrivals in Canada will be increasing in the coming weeks.
Calgary itself is still dealing with a large wait-list for those new Canadians for language classes once they arrive.
Executive Director of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society Fariborz Birjandian says the list is currently sitting at 1,500 which is approximately 2 months.
The one piece of good news is that wait list does appear to be getting smaller, just a few months ago it sat at 2,000.
“When the government says they’re ready, they’re saying in the context of ‘yes they’re ready but they’re not going into those details’,” he said. “In Alberta they have invested a lot of money, spending about $15-million to buy more seats.”
Birjandian says other cities in Canada don’t see the same issues as southern Alberta because Calgary is more attractive to immigrants.
“It is going down (the waitlist) but I think it all depends on the numbers coming, this is nothing new to Calgary, we’ve had a wait list for about 20 years,” he said. “In the past eight months I know they have invested $15-17 million in Alberta to provide more seats but in addition to language classes, the child care is also a challenge.”
He said it’s been difficult for some mothers to be able to afford the class because they have 6 or 7 kids at home.
“The settlement of these people will take 3, 4 or 5 years, it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “Once we do a good job at settling the refugees, we can take them through this process step by step.”
“I don’t want to not highlight the importance of language classes but I know there’s always going to be something not going the way we want.”
They recently held a summer program where they took 150 children to summer camp and they’re having complete conversations now in English.
“Are they free of challenges? Of course not but at least they’re on the right track.”
He says they’re trying to push the government so any newcomers can access English classes within two months.
One of the big issues for not-for-profits is the newcomers can access these classes anytime they want and some are staying longer than they have, they’re hoping they can free up some of that space for new people.