November 19, 2015

Province Establishes Refugee Settlement Centre, Remains Concerned About Year-End Deadline

Premier Brad Wall today announced the Saskatchewan government will establish a Refugee Settlement Centre to co-ordinate the arrival of Syrian refugees into the province.

Wall said while the province continues to have serious concerns about the December 31 deadline for the arrival of 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada, it’s important to ensure that refugees who come to Saskatchewan make a successful transition to life in Canada.

"No one should doubt our desire to help refugees," Wall said.  "We need to ensure their settlement in our province is successful.  I remain concerned that a rushed political deadline could compromise the success of the refugee resettlement effort.

"That said, we need to be ready to welcome the refugees whenever they start to arrive.  The Refugee Settlement Centre will bring together the appropriate government ministries to work with municipalities, settlement groups and other community-based organizations to ensure the best possible outcomes for these new Saskatchewan residents."

Wall said while provincial officials have received some further information about the refugee resettlement plan, many questions remained unanswered.

"We still don't know how many refugees will be sent to Saskatchewan," Wall said.  "We believe we should receive our proportionate share based on Saskatchewan population but have not received any clear indication from Ottawa of what number they have in mind.

"We also have not yet received a full explanation of how a screening process that usually takes several months can be compressed down to a few weeks.  There are media reports that federal officials and UN officials are expressing this same concern.  This is why we support the overall goal but remain concerned about achieving it within a political deadline.

"We need to take our time and get this right.  We need to get the safety and security outcomes right at the front of this process and get the resettlement outcomes right at the back end of this process.  I'm not sure that's possible by December 31, but regardless of the timeline, we will make every effort to make it work."

Wall also announced the creation of a new Refugee Settlement Committee of cabinet, chaired by Immigration Minister Jeremy Harrison.  Other members include Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter, Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer, Education Minister Don Morgan, Health Minister Dustin Duncan and Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell.