More than 27,000 refugees have arrived in Canada since last November, in one of the most significant collective social projects of our time. Canadians watched television footage of newcomers arriving at our airports and being greeted by the Prime Minister, the Governor General, key ministers and big city mayors. Happy videos of Syrians tobogganing or visiting a Tim Horton’s went viral. Groups of Canadian friends and neighbours have raised money to resettle these families, who have suffered years of displacement and the anguish that comes with it.

But the reality for the refugees, and the communities they live in, is far more complex and not all that sunny. Refugees often arrive with children who have never attended school, with non-existent French or English language skills, with serious health issues including mental illness, and with views on gender roles that don’t match our own. The public institutions and non-governmental organizations that serve them are feeling the strain on their limited resources.

Policy Options will be taking a closer look at the challenges of integrating refugees into Canadian society, as well as what decision-makers should be taking into account as they plan for programming and funding.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette