The Liberal government will miss its already-revised goal of bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by Jan. 1 — but would meet it by mid-January, the immigration minister confirmed Thursday morning.
During the 2015 federal election campaign, the Liberals pledged to resettle 25,000 government-sponsored refugees “immediately.”
At a news conference at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum said the Liberal government had “largely met our promises.”
Only 6,000 refugees will land in Canada by Jan. 1, although 10,700 will be “processed fully through all screening stages” by the end of Dec. 31. and will be in Canada within the following two weeks, McCallum said.
Many of the arrivals are privately sponsored, some are government-sponsored.
McCallum said the Liberal government had identified 25,000 Syrian refugees by Dec. 24. They are expected to be resettled in Canada before the end of February.
“We are in line to achieve our primary target of 25,000 by the end of February.
“It would be simple to bring 25,000 refugees in by the end of the year, if we didn’t care about doing it correctly.
“When history is written, the story will be about how we resettled 25,000 refugees in a short period of time,” McCallum said, and not the two-week delay in meeting the amended goal of 10,000 refugees by Jan. 1.
Also speaking at the press conference, Minister of Health Jane Philpott, chair of the Cabinet’s ad hoc committee on refugees, said three planes carrying 800 refugees would arrive on Dec. 31 alone.
“Had we not set such incredibly audacious goals, I can tell you, we would not be where we are today,” Philpott said.
“Some Canadians will choose to focus on measures we have not achieved by this day. I know most Canadians are going to focus on what we have accomplished.
A total of 4,420 Syrians arrived between Nov. 4, when the Liberal cabinet was sworn in, and Dec. 28. A further 4,985 refugees had been approved for permanent residency by Dec. 28. Hundreds more are to be processed by Jan. 1, taking the total to 10, 700.
The first government plane of Syrian refugees arrived in Canada on the evening of Dec. 10.
On Dec. 2, the federal government said Canada could welcome somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 refugees by the end of 2016.
— With files from Alex Boutilier