Montreal wants to create permanent office to help refugees
Published Monday, January 25, 2016 2:57PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 25, 2016 6:53PM EST
Montreal plans to set up a permanent office to integrate new arrivals to the city, but there is some opposition to the idea.
Critics argue it will be a waste of money because most Syrian refugees who have arrived here are already receiving the help they need.
Michel Dorais was hired by the Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre last November to oversee the expected Syrian crisis for a controversial salary of $1800 a day. His contract to coordinate the arrivals will soon end.
During his tenure, only 19 government-sponsored refugees have arrived from Syria, with the rest of the 1462 refugees that have arrived since Dec. 12, 2015 being privately sponsored.
That means the overwhelming majority of refugees are having their needs meet by the individuals and groups that made arrangements to bring them to Canada.
Regardless, Dorais is proposing the city of Montreal create a permanent office to welcome refugees to the city.
Mayor Denis Coderre thinks it's an excellent idea.
"Frankly I don't understand why we didn't put that together before, and clearly we have that since the Syrian crisis to bring them here and the refugees that we have a duty to play our role within the world," said Coderre.
Though Coderre admits the 19 government-sponsor refugees is a number far lower than they expected, but added that future waves of refugees cannot be expected to have the support that those sponsored by individuals and groups have. The city expects to welcome 700 refugees a week for the next three weeks.
The proposed office of refugee co-ordination, or Newcomers Integration Office, would have ten staff people, and a budget of $1 million per year. A similar office in Toronto has a staff of four.
It will help the hundreds of immigrants and refugees who arrive weekly from all over the world acclimate to the city with everything from education and housing to employment. It will take over the work already started by special committees, coordinated by Dorais.
Dorais's contract is due to expire on Feb. 19.
The opposition at City Hall thinks the idea is insulting.
In a statement Laurence Lavigne Lalonde said that rather than admit the city made a mistake, it is doubling down.
Lalonde said the city should just admit that hiring Dorais at a substantial fee to oversee the arrival of 19 refugees was an error, and let the existing agencies deal with helping refugees.
Projet Montreal V.P. Jimmy Zoubris called it a waste of taxpayer money.
“This office is just a duplication of stuff that's being done at the federal and provincial level, and it's just to justify a terrible decision made to hire that $1800 a day consultant,” he said.
Stephan Reichhold of the Coalition of Immigration Agencies helping immigrants in Quebec disagrees, however.
“It's good news finally, the city of Montreal seems to have an interest in newcomers. For years we didn't have very much dialogue with the city so it will help for us,” he said.