Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 24, 2015 - 1:20 pm

Refugees are welcome, but Nunavut just doesn’t have capacity: Taptuna

Territory's housing shortage hinders ability to sponsor refugees

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted premiers in Ottawa Nov. 23, where provinces and territories discussed the federal government's plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees before the end of 2015. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF THE PM)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted premiers in Ottawa Nov. 23, where provinces and territories discussed the federal government's plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees before the end of 2015. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF THE PM)

(Updated, 3:45 p.m.)

Syrian refugees fleeing that country’s brutal civil war would be welcomed in Nunavut “with open arms,” Premier Peter Taptuna said, but the territorial government cannot and will not sponsor any refugees as part of the federal government’s latest resettlement efforts.

Taptuna took part in a First Ministers’ meeting in Ottawa Nov. 23, hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — the first gathering of provincial and territorial premiers since 2009.

That’s where premiers committed their support to a federal plan to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, a number that, as of Nov. 24, has now been shaved to 10,000 in 2015, with 10,000 more by the end of February 2016.

The Nunavut government doesn’t have the infrastructure to support sponsor its own refugees, Taptuna told Trudeau Nov. 23

“Due to a number of challenges in Nunavut, including the housing shortage, our government doesn’t have the capacity to sponsor Syrian refugees,” Taptuna said in a Nov. 23 tweet.

At the same time, he said the Government of Nunavut would welcome any privately-sponsored refugees who come to Nunavut.

“Should a community group or family choose to sponsor Syrian refugees, they will be welcomed with open arms.”

But should any federal sites — such as the defence department’s forward operating locations at the Iqaluit or Rankin Inlet airports — be opened to refugees, Taptuna said the GN would help with any administrative or logistical issues.

The territory has also offered money to the Red Cross to support refugees overseas.

When the federal government release detailed plans for resettling Syrian refugees Nov. 24, the expected number of 25,000 refugees was reduced to 10,000.

The Syrian civil war, which began in early 2011, mainly pits the government of Bashar al-Assad against a variety of armed groups opposed to the continued rule of his Ba’ath party government.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that more than 210,000 people have died there in the past four years, and 4.2 million people have fled the country, while another 6.8 million are displaced inside Syria.

The rise of ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an ultra-extremist jihadist force dedicated to the restoration of a medieval caliphate, has created even more suffering, forcing more than 830,000 refugees to flee areas of Syria and Iraq that are controlled by ISIL and its allies.

Despite some initial security and financial concerns, premiers back Ottawa’s plan to bring in the refugees, the majority of whom are expected to be settled first in Ontario and Quebec.

The main focus of the first minister’s meeting, however, was to discuss Canada’s strategy to fight climate change, ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

COP 21, which may produce new global agreement, to curb climate change, will be held in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec.11.

Premier Taptuna will be in attendance and will give a keynote speaker at the Arctic Encounter Paris event Dec. 11-12, the premier’s office said.

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