In light of the November 7, 2016, territorial elections, Yukon cares invited the party leaders to share their views on the following questions. Please see below each question for each party’s response.
1) There are a number of individuals and groups that have funds raised and are prepared to sponsor refugee families in the territory, but are unable to bring the families over due to delays and backlogs at the federal level. What action are you willing to take to influence the federal government to increase the flow of refugees to the territory and to the country?
NDP: Canadians, and Yukoners in particular, have responded to the global refugee crisis with generosity and compassion. Our community has worked together quickly and efficiently to provide the resources and supports necessary to welcome Syrian refugees. Unfortunately, the Federal Government has not responded with the same level of urgency as the Canadian people. Only 3,350 privately sponsored refugees have arrived in Canada as of October 2016. A Yukon NDP government will press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately put in place measures that will allow these individuals and groups who have indicated their willingness and capacity to sponsor families to do so. Canada made world wide headlines when the Prime Minister said Canada vowed to help. A Yukon NDP government will actively press the Prime Minister to work with Yukoners who want to do their part.
Liberal Party: Yukon Liberals are very proud of the work done by all those that have worked on bringing refugee families to the Yukon and Canada. We will work with groups like Yukon Cares to lobby the Federal Government to increase the flow of refugees to Yukon and Canada.
Green Party: Thank you for contacting the Yukon Green Party with your questions. Because we are a small party with only volunteers to rely on, we have not had the manpower necessary to answer all of these questionnaires coming in from multiple organizations. Please feel free to visit www.yukongreenparty.ca and have a read through our policy and platform. We are very proud of the work we have done on our policy book and are sure you will find the answers to your questions within Section 2. Section 2 discusses Caring For One Another. If you do not find a bullet point addressing your concerns, please feel free to draft one and we would be glad to insert it after approval from the membership.
Yukon Party: The Yukon Party government is aware that the federal government’s processing of Syrian refugees has slowed since it reached its target of 25,000 refugees this past February. We also understand the frustration felt by sponsorship groups when they are told that their refugees will be delayed by backlogs. We believe that it is incumbent for all governments and countries with the capacity to resettle refugees to move quickly and be more proactive about resettlement. While the amount of influence we could bring to bear on the federal government is not great, a re-elected Yukon Party government would be willing to work with our counterparts in other provinces and territories to pressure Ottawa to increase the number of refugees to Canada.
2) Do you think there are enough resources for new immigrants and refugees in the territory? Where do you think the priorities in programs should be?
NDP: In the Yukon NDP Platform 2016, we have committed to working with Yukon’s cultural communities of New Canadians and permanent residents on ways to enhance an inclusive Yukon, celebrate diversity, encourage community involvement, and support the path to citizenship and opportunity. Like all Yukoners, new immigrants and refugees in the territory deserve services and programs that treat them with respect, and provide them with opportunity and options. This means quality health care, education, childcare, and secure housing for all Yukoners. Our vision is of a better, stronger Yukon where no one is left behind.
Liberal Party: Resources for new refugee families can always be improved and as Government it is important to ensure that these resources are constantly reviewed to keep them up to date with the current situation. Based on recent refugee arrivals from Syria, we should make sure that the services we are providing are focused on the experience of these new arrivals. Priorities for new arrivals should be housing, language training, health services and job search/job opportunity assistance.
Yukon Party: Funding for these programs is provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Yukon government’s Advanced Education Branch. A re-elected Yukon Party government will continue to fund the Multicultural Centre, and will work to ensure that the federal government also continues to provide newcomers with the necessary support. We believe that immediate settlement needs such as transportation, housing and education should be of the highest priority. And we are aware that finding affordable housing in Whitehorse has been a challenge. This is why we are working to increase accessibility to affordable safe housing in Yukon. We recently partnered with the Da Daghay Development Corporation to develop and operate a new, 42-unit single to three-bedroom affordable rental housing complex in the Whistle Bend subdivision. A re-elected Yukon Party government would continue to explore opportunities to partner with First Nations and the private sector on housing initiatives similar to the Da Daghay initiative. We have also pledged to make the necessary legislative and regulatory changes to better enable construction of tiny homes in communities, and to support efforts to increase the diversity of lending options available to homeowners in Yukon. If re-elected, our government will continue to seek input from your organization, and others like it, about what program priorities should be and how they could be improved.
3) Most provinces have received support from the government of Canada’s assisted refugees (GARs) program. Government-assisted refugees are Convention Refugees Abroad whose initial resettlement in Canada is entirely supported by the Government of Canada. Support can last up to one year from the date of arrival in Canada, or until the refugee is able to support himself or herself, whichever happens first. The refugee families under GAR are completely funded by the federal government and resettled by refugee resettlement agencies such as the multicultural Centre in Whitehorse. The Yukon has not received any GARs. Would your government approach the federal government and welcome GARs into the territory?
NDP: During the 2015 federal election, the Liberal Party promised that if elected, they would resettle 25,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. Under the plan that was rolled out once they took office, the deadline was pushed back until the end of 2016. The Yukon is a wonderful place to work and live. Our community is the perfect place to welcome government assisted Syrian refugees. A Yukon NDP government will not only advocate for the resettlement of government assisted refugees in Yukon, but will hold the federal government accountable to their promise to resettle 25,000 government assisted Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. Thank you again for your letter, and for the very important work that Yukon Cares is doing in our community. I look forward to working together closely in the future. Liz Hanson.
Liberal Party: A Liberal Government would work with the Federal Government and support GAR’s being welcomed to Yukon.
Yukon Party: If this approach is supported by Yukon Cares and other interested stakeholders, a re-elected Yukon Party government would be willing to approach the federal government about accepting government-assisted refugees to the territory.