Assam Hadhad, a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada last year, displays a tray of chocolates at his shop, Peace by Chocolate, in Antigonish, N.S. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. CEO Tareq Hadhad has plans to hiring more refugees over the next three years. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Syrians gradually integrating into Canadian society, latest report finds

Pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees became a hallmark promise from the Liberals in 2015

Syrians refugees admitted to Canada under the government’s landmark resettlement program are slowly catching up to other refugee groups when it comes to finding jobs and connecting with their communities.

The final Citizenship, Immigration and Refugees Canada study of outcomes for the nearly 40,000 Syrians who arrived between 2015 and 2016 suggests that just over half are now working, with a further 23 per cent actively on the hunt for a job.

But the study shows their salaries continue to lag behind other refugee groups, and while the report found most Syrians feel they’re handling the day-to-day requirements of life in Canada well, many are still turning to food banks for support.

A pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees became a hallmark promise from the Liberals during the 2015 election, which came at the height of the Syrian civil war that saw millions of people displaced around the world and the United Nations actively calling on countries like Canada to take in more people who desperately needed new homes.

The multimillion-dollar effort that ensued, while embraced by Canadians, also came with fears that such a large group of refugees — many suffering from the trauma of the war — would arrive without the supports in place for them to integrate into Canadian life.

The report, published in June, says 89 per cent of Syrian adults have accessed government-funded language assessments and 77 per cent of them have accessed language training. Although most reported being able to complete day-to-day tasks in English without help, language challenges have fostered feelings of isolation among some, the report said.

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Some 57 per cent of 1,255 Syrian respondents to a 2018 survey reported being employed, while another 23 per cent were looking for work, it found.

Most — 86 per cent — reported having a doctor or health care provider, though a lack of language skills, understanding of services, the stigma around mental health and privacy concerns were preventing some from accessing health care.

The majority of parents also reported that their school-age children were indeed enrolled in school, although language barriers continue to make it hard for Syrian parents to be active in their children’s education.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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