25,000 Syrian Refugees In Canada By Year’s End? Unlikely

By James Metcalfe | October 28, 2015

James Metcalfe - Director of Immigration

James Metcalfe – Director of Immigration

Director of Immigration Jim Metcalfe: One of the promises made during the recent federal election by incoming Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was that Canada would accept 25,000 refugees from the Middle East by the end of 2015.

Unfortunately, I think we’re about to see an example of what happens when campaign promises meet cold realities. I do not believe a two-month mass resettlement is possible given the numbers. Even dropping a zero and resettling 2500 people in Canada over the next 60 days is a stretch.

Cutbacks in Canada’s immigration department have resulted in fewer visa officers in the field, making the vetting of large numbers of people a long-term prospect. Add to this the logistics of transporting refugees and settling them in Canada and you quickly find a two-month mass resettlement an impossible dream. Moving that many people even without a vetting process would require immediately putting over 400 people on airplanes every day from now until the end of the year. It’s not going to happen.


A mass resettlement project requires an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. Besides visa officers, Citizenship and Immigration Canada would have to put medical teams in the field to assess applicants. Other government departments like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would need to be involved. If there isn’t enough staff, then more will have to be hired and trained. All of this takes time.

It’s not like Canada doesn’t have a template to show them how huge this task is. In the 1980s, Canada had a mass movement of refugees like the one promised by Trudeau. Back then, it involved the settlement of tens of thousands of boat people from Southeast Asia. The task was accomplished successfully, but take note: it lasted several years.

From my experience, settling thousands of Syrian refugees is going to be a long and drawn out process. If the government delivers on the promised settlement of 25,000 even by the end of 2016, they will have achieved a miracle.