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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Processing of Syrian refugees to enter Canada continues

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 27/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government will meet its commitment to process 10,000 Syrian refugees for entry to Canada but they won’t all be here by year’s end.
   Immigration Minister John McCallum said he now can’t guarantee the Liberal government will be able to meet its goal of bringing in that number by Dec. 31.
   They will be “verified” by that date but not all will have arrived, he said, as the government remains committed to resettle 25,000 refugees by the end of February.
   Among the factors making the earlier goal unrealistic in such a short period since the government was elected in October are circumstances including poor flying weather.
   McCallum told reporters that hundreds of Canadian government representatives are working all out to process the refugees coming from Lebanon and Jordan.
   As of Dec. 21, almost 2,000 refugees have arrived and flights are continuing through the holidays, he said.
   To assist with cities and organizations helping to resettle the newcomers, McCallum announced the federal government would allocate another $15 million.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Canadian dollar value at 11-year low

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 20/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s dollar is worth less, plunging below 72 cents U.S., at an 11-year low.
   Factors causing the drop to 71.68 cents include slumping oil and commodity prices and a higher U.S. dollar due to a slight increase in interest rates there.
   That means it costs almost $1.40 Canadian for a U.S. dollar, plus bank and credit-card exchange fees.
   Economists expect the weaker dollar to continue, hitting 70 cents before rising slowly through the end of next year.
   This is making it more costly for “snowbirds” and vacationers from Canada who pay in U.S. dollars.
   So far, however, it hasn’t deterred many from their winter haunts in Florida, California, South Carolina, Arizona and other sunny spots.
   Florida attracts about 4.2-million Canadian vacationers annually and tourism officials say there’s only a slight drop this year.
   The lower dollar is also leading to higher food costs with fresh vegetables, especially lettuce and tomatoes from the U.S., rising by 10.9 percent.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Prime minister welcomes first Syrian refugee arrivals

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 13/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   “You are home – welcome home,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in greeting the first planeload of Syrian refugees to Canada.
   Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as the first military flight of 163 Syrians arrived from Beirut.
   The new Liberal government said it will resettle 25,000 refugees escaping Syria’s civil war by the end of February.
   Upon arrival, they were given winter clothing and housed in an airport hotel before being transported this weekend to sponsored housing in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
   During processing in Toronto and Montreal, the new arrivals are being given Social Insurance Numbers so they can work, government health-insurance cards for “free” medical care and become permanent residents.
   First to be greeted was Kevork Jamkossian, his wife Georgina Zires and 16-month-old daughter, Madeleine, clutching a teddy bear given to her by Wynne.
   “We suffered a lot but now we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise,” he said.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Canadian government suggests number of Syrian refugees resettled could double

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 6/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   As Canada prepares to welcome the first of 25,000 Syrian refugees, the government suggests that number could double over the next year.
   “The number of refugees is likely to be in the order of 35,000 to 50,000” by the end of next year, Immigration Minister John McCallum said.
   The first “mass flight” of up to 300 refugees from Turkey and Jordan is expected to arrive by chartered aircraft on Thursday.
   The new Liberal government made a commitment to resettle 25,000 refugees, along with those privately sponsored by churches and families, by the end of February.
   Those coming to Canada are undergoing security, immigration and health checks.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and McCallum are urging Canadians to support the effort and help the refugees settle in.
   “There is a possibility of a social backlash against refugees if Canadians see them as being pampered,” McCallum said.
   Similar to Canada’s earliest settlers, many Syrian refugees will be arriving in the winter, said Governor-General David Johnston.
   “A warm Canadian welcome in a cold Canadian winter – what could be more fitting?” he added.