Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman. (Photo: Submitted)

Refugees a business, not just social issue, Surrey Board of Trade says

Board’s request rejected at national meeting this week

The Surrey Board of Trade is dismayed that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s immigration committee’s stance that refugees are a social, but not a business, issue.

The Surrey Board of Trade this week asked representatives of 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade at a CCC conviction in Fredericton, New Brunswick to extend support to refugees to three years from one and boost education and career planning opportunities for them.

But the request was denied, said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

“It was very disappointing that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce immigration committee stated that refugees was a social and not a business issue,” she said. “The final vote by the delegates also indicated a non-support of the Surrey Board of Trade Refugee policy.”

Last year Canada accepted roughly 40,000 Syrian refugees on account of the civil war, and Surrey took in 44 per cent of the 1,700 that came to B.C. Of those, roughly 60 per cent were under age 18, Huberman said.

She noted that federal government support for these refugees for only one year before the province takes over, with the average refugee family receiving $348 less in public funding than under the feds.

READ ALSO: Surrey Food Bank struggles to serve Syrian refugees

Huberman noted federally funded job and English language training waitlists are long with B.C. currently experiencing the longest waitlist for these services as more than 5,000 permanent residents, most of them in Surrey, seeking spaces even prior to the influx of Syrian refugees into this city.

“What’s needed is not just a discussion of how to facilitate immigration, of refugees and others, but how to ensure our new residents integrate swiftly into the economy,” Huberman said. “But all of this requires a shift in thinking. Done properly, bringing refugees into our country isn’t about charity — it’s about investing in the future of business, both theirs and ours.”

The Surrey Board of Trade co-chairs the Surrey Local Immigrant Partnership, or LIP coalition of local service providers helping new refugees and immigrants. “We are the only LIP coalition in B.C. with business at the table in a leadership capacity,” Huberman noted.



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