Syrian Refugees

Nova Scotia unveils support line for refugee assistance

Still no information from federal government on when refugees will begin to arrive

Left to Right: Minister of Immigration Lina Diab, Suzanne Ley and Gerry Mills detail Nova Scotia's plans to support refugees.
Left to Right: Minister of Immigration Lina Diab, Suzanne Ley and Gerry Mills detail Nova Scotia’s plans to support refugees.   Alexander Quon

Nova Scotians who wish to help refugees now have a new number to call – 211.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab said anyone wishing to offer support for refugees – money, clothing, food, lodging, or to volunteer their time – can now call the toll-free line and pledge their support.

The new program comes as the Nova Scotia government, in partnership with community organizations like the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), is attempting to co-ordinate resources in anticipation of refugees landing in the province.

“Rather than [resources] being sort of scattered across organizations the idea is to bring it all together,” said Suzanne Ley, executive director of the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration. “At this point, we are preparing for all scenarios.”

Plans for refugees’ arrival

Diab stressed that many of the province’s current plans are based off of assumptions.

Gerry Mills, director of operations for ISANS, said the first priority when refugees do arrive will be to get them into permanent housing.

“They need to be normalized,” she said. “Their life needs to begin.”

ISANS has identified permanent accommodations in Halifax with space for 600 to 700 refugees. Mills said they do not know what condition the refugees will be in when they arrive but all of them will be assessed for health issues.

“We don’t know how many people are going to come to Nova Scotia right now,” Mills said. “ But we know that probably half of them will be children.”

Diab said the federal government has not offered any timetable for how or when refugees will arrive in Canada. As a result, the provincial government is attempting to prepare as best it can.

“We are hoping that [more information] will come by the end of the week,” Diab said.

No comment on prime minister’s timetable

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

Since the attacks in Paris and Beirut, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark have raised concerns over Prime Minister Trudeau’s timeline. Diab sidestepped questions on whether the recent attacks have made the province reconsider its stance on accepting refugees.

“It’s really up to the federal government to ensure that all screening takes place,” she said. “Therefore, going forward we expect to do our share in this province.”

Nova Scotia stands in solidarity

Diab offered her condolences to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut.

“Both of these cities and these countries are dealing with the aftermath of senseless tragedies,” she said. “Together as Nova Scotians we stand in solidarity and say ‘Je suis Paris, Je suis Liban, Je suis Beirut.’”

Diab said as new information is made available the province’s plans would be updated.