New Canadian Media

By: Charles Lammam and Milagros Palacios in Vancouver 

With home prices rising across the country, many of us would likely assume that housing costs (including rent and mortgage payments) are the most expensive budget item for the average Canadian family.

In reality, however, the average Canadian household spends more on taxes than any other expense—including housing. Specifically, in 2016 the average Canadian family (including single Canadians) earned $83,105 in income and paid $35,283 in total taxes. That’s 42.5 per cent of income going to taxes.

Surprised? You’re not alone.

For most of us, the income and payroll tax deductions on our paycheques do not total anything close to this percentage. But to understand the full cost of taxation, you must consider all the taxes—both visible and hidden—that we pay throughout the year to federal, provincial and municipal governments including sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, carbon taxes, import taxes, alcohol taxes and much more. All these taxes add up and make our overall tax bill expensive.
So how does the overall tax bill compare to housing costs?

The average Canadian family spends 22.1 per cent of its income on housing—only about half as much as it spends on taxes (again, 42.5 per cent).

In fact, taxes consume more of the average family’s income than all the basic necessities of life combined. If you add up the average family’s spending on housing, food and clothing in a year, it comes to 37.4 per cent of its income—still quite a bit less than what we pay in taxes.

With 42.5 per cent of income going to taxes, Canadian families may rightfully wonder whether they get good value for their tax dollars. Of course, taxes fund important government services. But we shouldn’t simply assume that higher taxes always provide better government services.

While it’s ultimately up to individual Canadians and their families to decide if they’re getting the best bang for their money, you must know how much you pay in total taxes to make an informed assessment. That’s where our annual calculations help. They estimate the cost of government for the average family. Armed with this knowledge, Canadians can then determine if they think they’re getting good value in return.

Some perspective might help.

In most provinces, more than 50 per cent of our tax dollars finance generous pay for government employees. In fact, government employees, on average, receive 10.6 per cent higher wages than comparable private-sector workers doing similar work. And that’s on top of the much more generous non-wage benefits (pension coverage, job security, early retirement) the government sector also enjoys. Of course, we need qualified and well-paid government workers, but is this pay and benefit premium the best use of our tax dollars?

In the case of health care, which consumes around 40 per cent of most provincial budgets and is a fast-growing expense, international comparisons show that, despite high levels of spending, Canadians have comparatively poor access to technology and doctors, and endure longer wait times for surgery. It’s hard to see how we get good value for our money in public health care when measured against other countries that also offer universal access.

Most troubling is when our tax dollars are outright wasted on boondoggles and failed government programs. A recent study documented more than 600 cases where the federal government failed to meet its own objectives over a 25-year period, resulting in up to $197 billion of wasted tax money.

Bottom line—if Canadians are more informed about the true cost of government, they will be better equipped to hold government accountable for how it spends our tax dollars. And that leads to a more robust public debate about the overall tax burden and whether we’re getting our money’s worth.

Charles Lammam is the Director, Fiscal Studies, at the Fraser Institute and Milagros Palacios is the Senior Research Economist at the Fraser Institute. This piece was republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Economy
Thursday, 11 August 2016 15:01

Housing Market Slows to a Simmer in B.C.

 THE British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that 9,900 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in July, down 3.4 per cent from the same month last year. Total sales dollar volume was $6.57 billion in July, up 5.4 per cent compared to the previous year. The average MLS residential […]

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Published in Economy

Vancouver: A look at Vancouver-area incomes brings new clarity to the British Columbia government’s moves to dampen the region’s red-hot real estate market.

Recent months have seen a politically charged debate over the causes and consequences of sky-high housing prices in Metro Vancouver. The pace of price increases has been unprecedented, particularly for detached homes. In some areas, prices have more than doubled in value in five years.

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Published in National

Commentary By Aran Cheema

Housing is on everyone’s mind these days, specifically the high cost of it in the Metro Vancouver region. Nearly two thirds of residents are homeowners already, but for the 37 per cent who rent,it is extremely frustrating to watch the continuing trend of soaring real estate prices.

It’s also a problem for companies who are struggling to find workers that can afford to live in the region.

As a result, there is a lot of finger pointing going on. Governments at all levels are under pressure to take action to improve the situation.

How should the government intervene in the market to address this issue? Thisis where a seemingly simple problem meets complex reality.

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Published in Economy

Metro Vancouver's housing market is broken. While most of the attention has been on the soaring price of housing, there is also a crisis in the rental market, and the complete absence of any secure housing for the most needy. Together, these factors have fuelled a widening gap between rich and poor.

To address this crisis we must stop treating housing primarily as an investment rather than a place to live. Vancouver's housing should be owned by the people of Vancouver, not absentee owners or corporations.

First, we need to take external capital out of the game. The ability of outside wealth – whether Chinese, Russian, American or Albertan – to come into the housing market is largely unquestioned. But when Vancouverites have to compete for housing with the world's super-rich, locals cannot win.

Asian Pacific Post

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Published in Commentary
Thursday, 17 March 2016 11:24

Breaking Silence Around Elder Abuse

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

Asking seniors subtle questions about their daily routines opens up dialogue – and can point to signs of elder abuse, which rarely reveals itself in obvious ways.

Nirpal Bhangoo-Sekhon often asks seniors she meets about what they’ve been eating, who handles their finances and if their basic needs are being met. It is her job as case manager of the Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) to be curious.

“Unfortunately, if we don't ask those questions, we wouldn't know what's happening,” she says. “It gives you a better picture of what goes on at home.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household.

In a 2009 report, Statistics Canada found that two-thirds of seniors who experienced family violence – physical force or threats – didn't sustain injuries. Seniors most at risk, based on reports to the police, are between 65 and 74.  

During her one-on-one meetings with seniors, Bhangoo-Sekhon will also illustrate scenarios to raise awareness of how common an issue elder abuse is. Holding such conversations regularly helps ease reservations about breaking their silence, which can take months, if not longer, she says. 

Reluctance to speak up

While elder abuse cuts across different cultural groups, they may contend with different obstacles. 

Language barriers and distrust in the police – mostly worries about being deported – aren't the only concerns stacked heavily against the decision to come forward, says Kripa Sekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women's Centre (SAWC) in Toronto.

There's the perception that speaking out would fracture family ties and bring shame on the community. 

“I don't think they want to be seen as a community that's going to expose their families or seen as betraying their families," says Sekhar. "They've almost accepted that ‘this is what's meant for me.’”

Cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Burial customs can also play a role in the struggle to come forward for seniors of certain faiths.  

With funeral rites traditionally being the responsibility of the son or a male family member, some express concern that their spiritual needs will not be looked after if they speak out, says Sekhar. “They're not worried about today. They're worried about the afterlife. It's hard to understand that – you're struggling in this life, but it's such a part of who they are.”

Abuse isn't limited to physical violence; it can extend to the withholding of financial resources, verbal threats and isolation from the household, she explains. 

Statistical profiles on elder abuse as it relates to the South Asian community aren't traced by front-line agencies such as the police and social services. Statistics Canada instead analyzes the prevalence of family violence along gender lines, while acknowledging that cultural groups have different attitudes about what constitutes abuse.

Possibilities for intervention

The immediate response to cases of physical abuse might be to find alternative housing, but in other instances, intervention through education is crucial, says Bhangoo-Sekhon.  

"If we can go in and educate the families – that, in the end, would be much more helpful and useful for the community than just pulling seniors out [of the home] and placing them in shelters," she says. 

Finding subsidized housing or placing elders in shelters isn't always the most feasible solution in cases of neglect or isolation, particularly if they're not used to living independently and are in need of a personal support worker, she says. 

PCHS has a caregiver support program, an extension of its efforts to address elder abuse, which is offered to those who are caring for family members. It is intended to relieve the strain of household demands. The program attempts to engender a culture of empathy, recognizing that the caregiver may be stressed, while getting him or her to understand the vulnerabilities that seniors face. 

"We help them understand the aging process," says Bhangoo-Sekhon, adding that changes in a senior's behaviour may create friction within the family if it's not recognized as a health issue.

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed. They need enough funding to live in dignity."

"[It's to help] them understand what's happening to their body, their brain, and that's out of their control."

Networks for seniors living alone

SAWC, through its community network, tries to locate housing for seniors so they can live independently, but finding affordable housing can take an average of seven years, according to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. Thirty per cent of seniors make up the wait list, as cited by the Toronto Star from the organization's 2015 report.

Sekhar communicates regularly with seniors who live independently and tries to ensure that their landlords are responsive to building safety issues. "Many say they do that, but their concerns aren't always attended to," she says. 

SAWC holds a seniors’ workshop every Thursday where they can gather to discuss health and safety issues, along with abuse. It's a support network for seniors who live on their own, where they feel comfortable conversing in their mother tongue, says Sekhar. 

"Housing for seniors should be guaranteed," says Sekhar. "They need enough funding to live in dignity."

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Health

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

Canada’s falling loonie has added extra dollars to the pockets of residents who rely on financial assistance from abroad. 

Foreign investors in real estate and local exporters are also enjoying benefits from the dip in our dollar, which is at its lowest level since the spring of 2003, and expected to go lower, as analysts forecast the loonie could lose another 10 cents. 

The loonie dropped just under $0.70 U.S. at the beginning of the year, reaching 69.9 cents on January 12. 

Added cash in hand 

Azra Riffat, a retired officer from Pakistan, lives in Toronto and is enjoying the benefits of the low dollar. 

Riffat immigrated to Canada 10 years ago. Unable to work because of her responsibilities at home, caring for her 80-year-old mother, Riffat receives support from her siblings who transfer money to her account for their mother’s medical and household expenses. 

“My sister is in the UK and brother in the U.S.,” says Riffat. “They cannot physically take care of our mother, so they send in money.” 

“The lower Canadian dollar only benefits wealthier individuals who have resources to transfer [funds] to Canada."

Over the past 12 months, the Canadian dollar has lost 15 per cent of its value against the U.S. Because the majority of the funds transferred to Canada are in U.S. dollars, this means up to an additional $45 for every $100 US converted to Canadian currency. 

“Last month when I checked the quote on an exchange rate of selling $100 US to buy Canadian dollars, it was 144.50,” says Riffat. 

Immigrants often come to Canada as families, but men sometimes return to their countries of origin because they are unable to find work. In other cases, men with high-paying positions in other countries move their families to Canada to give their children a more promising future. These are some of the families who are benefiting from the current exchange rate. 

“The lower Canadian dollar only benefits wealthier individuals who have resources to transfer [funds] to Canada, provided that [the funds come from] countries where the local currency is also in high value,” says Mustafa Koc, professor of sociology at Ryerson University in Toronto. 

Similarly, new immigrants who relocated to Canada during the past year have the added advantage of being able to stretch their savings for a longer period, compared to those who settled before, adds Majid Kazmi, a banker and immigrant from the Middle East. 

Good for real estate 

The low currency this year, complemented by low interest rates, creates an optimal situation for immigrants buying homes and foreign investors alike, as their buying power in the Canadian housing market has increased, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, says Wayne Ryan, Managing Broker at Remax-Vancouver. 

“Vancouver’s high-end properties are not flying off the shelf,” says Ryan, but explains that detached homes, which can cost anywhere between $3 and $5 million, are popular among foreign investors. 

Canada is seen as a “safe-haven” for foreign capital and the falling currency helps to further encourage it.

Some potential buyers are able to take advantage of liquidating their assets in their countries of origin and investing in the Canadian real estate market. Analysts like Eytan Lasry, who teaches in the business department at Toronto’s York University, suggest that Canada is seen as a “safe-haven” for foreign capital and the falling currency helps to further encourage it. 

Lasry adds that the best thing for both home buyers and investors is the low interest rates – which may sink even lower – as they make debt manageable. 

“It’s a global economy,” he explains. “When money goes low, you attract more, topped with low interest rates makes the debt servicing easy.” 

Exporters tap gains 

Canadian businesses, including those in food and consumer product industries, that export to the U.S. are also enjoying the extra profit because of the lower exchange rate. 

In a 2014 report, Moody’s Investors Service stated that the Canadian dollar depreciation is a positive for many Canadian industries, such as pulp and wood products. 

“Their costs are in Canadian dollars and their revenues are coming from abroad in currencies that are better off.”

Also, small businesses that export services, like catering and trucking to the U.S. and Mexico, tend to gain from the falling loonie. 

“Their costs are in Canadian dollars and their revenues are coming from abroad in currencies that are better off,” explains Kazmi. 

Fuzail Ata Pirzada, who migrated from the UK 16 years ago, runs a catering business in Mississauga. He provides service to Asian-themed functions and festivals in the U.S. too, close to the border. 

“I am paid in U.S. dollars, but the cost of the vegetables and meat has also increased in Canada, which offsets my profits,” he says. He adds that during winter, business slows down, but he is hoping to reap the benefit of the low dollar when spring arrives, and the wedding season begins. 

“It’s a good time to invest in the Canadian export industry, with a controlled cost of production on manufacturing and producing goods, and enjoy the pricing advantage later,” Kazmi suggests. 

As the Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz, has said repeatedly, the loonie is a casualty of the falling price of oil. He says it could take three years for Canada to work through the economic issues that are currently driving its dollar down.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Economy

Commentary by Don Curry in North Bay

Like a Northern Ontario lake in January, the cracks are starting to show in the Syrian refugee housing strategy.

It was to be expected, given the federal government’s desire to act swiftly, but there are lessons to be learned.

Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto have run out of housing, temporarily, for Government Assisted Refugees (GARs). Immigrant serving agencies in these three cities have asked the government to stop sending families until they can clear the housing backlog. 

Meanwhile, sponsorship groups in cities across the nation have homes ready to go and no refugee families in sight.

Refugees arrivals lag in smaller cities

In a previous commentary I took Chris Friesen, Director of Settlement Services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., to task for saying small cities can’t handle refugees. His view is it should be left to the big boys: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa.

Well, as everyone knows, those cities are congested and housing is way too expensive. 

So why is the federal government not redirecting refugee families to where homes are ready to go and sponsorship groups are eager to help?

The government should be quickly readjusting the numbers in the three refugee programs: GARs, private sponsorships and blended sponsorships. 

Sponsorship groups in cities across the nation have homes ready to go and no refugee families in sight.

The blended program has hit some snags. Our group in North Bay Ontario has been ready to go since November and the first family we were matched with through the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario, a mother and nine children, has yet to arrive. 

We don’t know why and no one will say. We have signed on for a second family, but there’s still no trace of the first one. 

The same is true for other sponsorship groups. Former Toronto Mayor John Sewell was quoted in the Toronto media as saying the sponsorship group he chairs has been ready to go since mid-December but has not received an offer of a refugee family to sponsor.

He said his group is one of 18 affiliated with Rosedale United Church and none are receiving referrals.

Issues with the selection process

The problem is the federal government chooses its refugee families first. The remaining qualified families are then put in a pool of profiles that are shared with the 100 faith and community groups that have sponsorship agreements with Ottawa. 

The GARs are funded 100 per cent by the taxpayers for the first year while the taxpayers cover only about 40 per cent in the blended program. In the private sponsorship program they cover nothing. 

So why not change the selection system to put the private and blended sponsorships at the front of the queue?

Brian Dyck, chair of the Sponsorship Agreement Holders’ Association, was quoted saying 300 Syrian refugee profiles have been posted since the beginning of January and they were quickly snapped up. 

We have signed on for a second family, but there’s still no trace of the first one.

“The matching system was designed for small-scale sponsorship interest. To adapt it to the current public interest is a big challenge,” he said.

It doesn’t appear that big to me. The Syrian refugee families don’t care what category they're in. They just want to leave.

How difficult can it be to redirect enough GARs to where there are willing sponsorship groups?

While the government is at it, why doesn’t it re-examine its GAR system, which settles refugees in a few select cities across Canada, and open it up to many more cities? Spread the work, spread the housing challenges and send refugees to communities seeking to grow their populations.

Canada must capitalize on its capacity

Many military bases are at less than full capacity and could be used to house GARs temporarily in communities until more suitable housing is found. We have one in North Bay and we have a city that has raised a lot of money and is receptive to newcomers. We are but one of many similar communities across Canada.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Minister John McCallum wants to bring in many more refugees. The government's new emphasis on refugees is evident in the word being placed in his title. 

The Syrian refugee families don’t care what category they're in. They just want to leave.

If we’re in for significantly increased numbers of refugees for the long term, it’s time to make some changes to the programs that were designed for much smaller numbers.

Let’s spread refugees across Canada to the many willing cities and towns. The big cities do not have a monopoly on settlement and integration expertise. 

If the federal government spent more resources on immigrant settlement agencies in the smaller centres, a settlement worker here and a settlement worker there, their capacity would increase and they could settle larger numbers of newcomers.

The hiccups in the present system present an opportunity for change.

Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting, a company providing immigration solutions for rural and northern Canada. He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and served in that capacity for eight years. He can be reached at 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Commentary

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga, Ontario

For most of the Syrian refugees arriving in Canada this month, their first challenge will be to find affordable housing as they transition into a new life in the country. 

Dominic Amann, an IT project manager, plans to offer two bedrooms in his home along with free food to a family of four or five members with the assistance of Wesley United Churches in Hamilton, Ontario.

Amman was born in England and came to Canada 25 years ago. As a child, he saw his father receive refugees from Uganda and Kenya during the 1970’s expulsion. He is Roman Catholic and wife is Jewish.  

The offer was made possible with extended resources from his network of friends, such as food, clothing and even employment for the refugee family. Amman is also willing to let them stay for longer than the standard 12 months if necessary.

“I am flexible,” Amann says. “We have to see what the need is, as well as my ability to continue as it cannot be unlimited.” 

Impact on low-income rental housing

Building developers are not worried that offering free or discounted rental units to Syrian refugees might impact the affordable housing market. 

“Twenty-five thousand refugees translates into seven to eight thousand households from Barrie all the way to Victoria,” says Bob Dhillon, president and CEO of Mainstreet Equity Corp, a rental apartment provider in Calgary. “It’s a drop in the ocean. I don’t think it’s going to impact in any sense.” 

Dhillon has offered 200 rental units in different cities for three months, either free or prorated (where three months’ rent is proportionally distributed over 12 months).  

Many Canadians are struggling to find affordable housing. This is particularly true in Ontario, where a 2014 report from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association suggests that the average family waits for rent-geared-to-income housing for 2.3 years. 

The province suffers from chronic homelessness, something the Ontario government has committed to eradicating in the next 10 years.

“It’s a drop in the ocean, I don’t think it’s going to impact in any sense.”

Despite these large numbers, Daljit Thind, owner of THIND Properties Ltd., a new home builders company in Vancouver, agrees with Dhillon. He says offers made to refugees are on a humanitarian basis.

“Free or subsidized rentals offered to refugees is totally separate from low-income rental market,” he says.

Thind is offering a number of fully furnished townhouses to Syrian refugees in Vancouver without charging rent for few months.

For Amann, he says it would be harder for him to offer free or sponsored housing to homeless people in Canada because of the risks associated with it.

“[People who are] homeless in that situation are due to things like mental illness or addiction and can pose some level of risk to my family,” he says. “I know people coming as refugees have more external support from government and agencies.” 

The government’s role in housing

Debbie Douglas, executive director at Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants, says the government has not made any special arrangements for Syrian refugees in terms of housing. 

Like any other refugee group, only government-sponsored refugees get a housing supplement for a year; privately sponsored refugee are supported by their sponsors. 

“Even the social housing stock in Ontario is not being used for refugees,” she says.

However, with corporate donations, the government is looking to create a housing fund — separate from social housing — to help refugees transition to permanent housing. 

“I know that CN [Canadian National Railway Company] has given a $5 million donation that the government is looking to create a sort of housing fund [with],” Douglas explains.

The government has not made any special arrangements for Syrian refugees in terms of housing.

In a news report, Heng Chau, the housing co-ordinator for Maison Sophia, a reception house for refugees in Ottawa’s ByWard Market area, says that most refugees manage to pay their rent by scrimping on other expenses.

The report adds that government-sponsored refugees – families of four with two adults and two children – receive approximately $2,600 assistance a month from the federal government during their first year in Canada, to cover food, housing, transportation and child-tax benefits.  

According to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation report, the vacancy rate amongst rental units in 35 of the country’s largest cities has increased to 3.3 per cent from 2.8 per cent in 2014, which means the arriving refugees should be easily accommodated in Canada’s housing market.

The report further adds that in October 2015, the average rent for a two-bedroom unit in new and existing buildings in those 35 cities was $960 a month.

Settlement process needs time

Some critics suggest that the hunt for affordable housing will get harder as more refugees arrive, while others believe that refugees who have lived in camps and tents often are comfortable in smaller living spaces or shared housing. 

As Thind suggests for the town houses he is offering, “They have four bedrooms and can accommodate two families easily.”

With a language barrier, finding cheap affordable housing in the long-run for these refugees could be a challenge. However, Douglas says that while they get help from settlement counsellors, they are expected to move out on their own too, just like the other 100,000 or so immigrants who settle in Ontario every year.

“With access to language training and employment support, they will able to find entry level jobs in the beginning to support themselves,” she concludes.

Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentoring Program. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Economy

by Florence Hwang in Regina, Saskatchewan

While the Liberal government announced this week that there would be 10,000 Syrians admitted to Canada by the end of 2015 and 15,000 by the end of February 2016, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration John McCallum failed to offer many specifics regarding housing the refugees.

The ad-hoc committee did mention that 36 cities were slated to receive refugees and that the military was prepared to house up to 6,000 refugees on a temporary basis if necessary.

“We don’t know what our provincial numbers will be either. We don’t know which of our cities is of that 36. Those are all fairly critical pieces,” says Brett Loney, Communications Director for the Nova Scotia Immigration Department.

In the coming weeks, Loney hopes to have more specifics regarding plans for accommodating the Syrians in Nova Scotia.

"Our partners are going out there, beating bushes like they routinely do,” he says. “Now that we have a clear sense of more [of] the details of the federal approach, it will help them in their work.”

Preparations underway across the country

Jean McRae is the Executive Director of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) and works with the Greater Victoria Housing Society, BC Housing Authority and other organizations that are offering places for the refugees to stay. She says the response from the community has been tremendous. 

Despite them not knowing too many of the details, many have offered to help with the Syrian refugees by donating, volunteering and offering places in their homes.

“We’ve had people say we’ve got a suite in my house or we had someone come say they have a house they have on the market that they’re willing to pull off the market for a year to help,” she says. “We’ve had people who may not have had suites, but have rooms in their houses.”

Many have offered to help with the Syrian refugees by donating and volunteering.

Until further information is available, McRae says that it’s a bit of a waiting game. “At this point, we’re just gathering all this information because until we actually know what’s going on, it’s very difficult to say what we’re going to need.”

Getachew Woldyesus is similarly focused on preparing for the arrival of the Syrians in Regina, Saskatchewan. He has served with the Regina Open Door Society (RODS) for 30 years.

“We are working with the community to support the newcomers regarding housing, school registration, whatever they need for their settlement.” says Woldyesus who is currently the Settlement & Family & Community Services Manager for RODS. “We have volunteers who would be willing to support newcomers.”

Scale is different from previous undertakings

According to Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), the Syrian refugee influx is different from other waves of immigrants that have come to Canada because of the sheer number of applicants and the tight timeline.

“What is different is that we’re looking at 25,000 in a very short period of time. Compared with the Kosovars in 1999, we brought in 5,000 over 60 or 90 days, but certainly it was the same process for bringing in large amounts of people all at the same time,” says Douglas.

However, she feels that public institutions like schools and hospitals are much more prepared to handle the newcomers than in the past. 

“I think what’s different [from past immigration waves] is that we have a very robust, sophisticated immigrant/refugee–serving infrastructure in place and so we’re able to hit the ground running when they get here,” she says.

Public institutions like schools and hospitals are much more prepared to handle the newcomers than in the past.

She is still concerned about long-term housing, especially in a large urban centre such as Toronto. Housing prices have increased substantially in major centres such as Toronto and Vancouver and those who have homes are not looking to move anytime soon.

“We don’t have a significant vacancy rate, but I do believe our system will be responsive,” says Douglas. “That’s certainly going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge anyways for most folks who live in Toronto, to be able to find adequate housing.”

She says they are also working on finding temporary and permanent housing for the refugees, whether they are government-sponsored or privately sponsored. 

Proceeding carefully when it comes to housing

While welcoming the newcomers is important, Loren Balisky, executive director with Kinbrace, says the housing situation, particularly the temporary side, should be handled with care. 

“I think we have to be careful we don’t warehouse. By necessity we’ll have to. They’re going to [be placed in] army barracks and those kinds of things. But as quickly as possible, they need to be connected to people,” he says. 

Kinbrace houses refugee claimants seeking asylum in Vancouver, aiming to foster dignity and respect by showing how refugees are contributing members of society. 

“Rather than doing things for people, either do them with and accompany [them]. They’re not objects of our pity. They shouldn’t be objects of our charity either.” says Balisky, who has lived with refugee claimants at Kinbrace for the past 17 years. “There’s something we’ve learned here that can be of value to the wider Canadian population, [which] is to help and welcome.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to

Published in Politics
Page 1 of 3

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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