With hundreds of refugees already being settled in New Brunswick and more on the way, Canada’s immigration minister says he thinks more should be landing in French-speaking communities.
The new arrivals in the province have so far been concentrated in its three largest cities —; Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John —; which are all predominantly English-speaking areas.
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Immigration Minister John McCallum and the federal government are now calling on other areas to come forward.
“I think more could be sent to French-speaking communities, especially since the refugees are starting at square one. That would be a positive move,” McCallum said.
Areas including Bathurst and Edmundston could become part of the resettlement efforts in the coming weeks, which some provincial officials think would be a step in the right direction.
“It’s important that with 33 per cent of our population being Francophone, we want to try to bring in 33 per cent of those newcomers to ensure we maintain our linguistic balance,” said Alex Leblanc, the executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.
McCallum said with the majority of refugees knowing neither English nor French it’s essentially “a blank slate”, meaning the opportunity to learn either language is there.
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However, with strong support systems in the province’s three major urban centres, smaller communities could struggle to match their resources.
“We have a settlement team here that enables them to go out, apply for jobs, start working,” said Justin Ryan of the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area.
“So the ability to not only have the jobs available, but to have the support to connect their skills to the jobs is the other essential linchpin.”
There is currently no timetable for a decision to be made regarding the expansion resettlement efforts.