Kelowna, Kamloops ready for Syrian migrants, but they may not adapt as easily to small towns
Government-assisted newcomers may not adapt as easily to small towns: official
Community groups in B.C. cities such as Kelowna and Kamloops say they are ready to take in Syrian newcomers, but the man in charge of settling the province’s government-assisted refugees says any push to send too many new arrivals outside Metro Vancouver could backfire.
There is already a Syrian family living in Kelowna and another in Summerland, said Marilyn Perry, chair of the Central Okanagan Refugee Committee, based out of Kelowna’s First United Church. The group is applying to sponsor a second family.
“Kelowna is a good spot because we have a mosque here, and 90 per cent of the people in Syria are Muslims,” Perry said. “We have good ESL here. The folks at the mosque, because their worship is in Arabic, they can provide us with translators and they’ve done that, and that’s been a good connection in many different ways.”
Perry said she knows of groups in Vernon, Armstrong and Salmon Arm who are also in the process of sponsoring Syrian refugees. A Catholic Church in Kelowna is hoping to bring in 12 families, she added.
Jobs Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond, who is the provincial minister responsible for refugees, said in a statement Tuesday the B.C. government would like Ottawa to consider settling some refugees outside the Lower Mainland, where housing is more affordable and there are more jobs available.
But Chris Friesen, settlement services director with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., said that some refugees might not settle so easily in small towns. He said this has worked in the case of privately sponsored refugees, who are supported in whole or in part by a church or community group. Such groups will typically choose the refugees they want to sponsor by name and often it will be members of the same family.