Language training for refugees no laughing matter, Rempel says

Daily Brew

[Conservative MP Michelle Rempel asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang]

BY: Trevor Koroll

A response from Immigration Minister John McCallum may have been hysterical to his colleagues in the House of Commons, but one Tory MP wasn’t laughing.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel questioned McCallum again on Tuesday about funding cuts to language training for refugees.

“Yesterday, when the minister stood here and glibly claimed that he had a plan to address language training, was he looking at these cuts, or was he planning his next photo op?” asked Rempel.

McCallum’s quip in the House on the subject drew laughter and applause from members on both sides of the aisle.

“Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted to send somebody somewhere for a photo op, I suspect there are people in this aisle they would probably send before they send me,” said a smiling McCallum.

The incident comes in light of news that hundreds of refugees have been turned away from programs in Toronto and Vancouver.

McCallum’s self-deprecating remark may have sparked laughter from most of the House, but Rempel wasn’t about to join in.

“While the people across the aisle here Mr. Speaker laugh at something like this, we have refugees in front of committee who are saying they are isolated … When are they going to help some of these agencies that cannot provide these services?”

After Rempel’s heated response, and a short clarification from Speaker Geoff Regan, McCallum confirmed that the government has earmarked $600 million for resettlement efforts for 2016-17.

An additional $37 million will be spent this year on Syrian refugees alone, McCallum said.

Settlement agencies told a committee earlier this month that government funding did help, but the money hadn’t gone far enough, The Canadian Press reports. Tough decisions had to be made, and as a result, classes were cancelled.

Base funding for the 2016-17 year didn’t take into account the influx of Syrian refugees that came to Canada as a result of a Liberal campaign pledge.