Agencies push back against Coulter's attacks on Calgary's Syrian refugees

Agencies push back against Coulter's attacks on Calgary's Syrian refugees


Published on: March 22, 2017 | Last Updated: March 22, 2017 6:13 AM MDT


Comments from a notorious American political commentator that Syrian refugees are ballooning Calgary’s poverty rate were deflated by local social workers.

In response to a Postmedia story published Monday on a drive to collect clothing and halal food for the city’s needy Muslims, Ann Coulter on Tuesday tweeted “Keep it up Calgary and we may not be able to make you our 51st state,” possibly mistaking the city for a province or country.

She goes on to say “massive jump in poverty as “underprivileged” “refugees” pour in.”

It’s an assessment divorced from reality, said Karen Young, president of the Calgary United Way.

“In 2012, there was back then a poverty rate of 10 per cent, and it’s about 10 per cent now, or 120,000 people,” said Young.

The influx of about 3,000 Mideast, mostly Syrian, refugees began in late 2015.

In the Monday news story, the Muslim Families Network Society, which organized the drive, said the number of Muslims in the city doubled since the latest refugee crisis began.

Young said she’d rather not address any comments made by Coulter, but added “we really believe in the value of fairness, inclusion and diversity.”

The numbers of those refugees aren’t significant enough to considerably affect the city’s poverty rate, said Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society which has overseen the refugee influx.

“They’re looking for an excuse to move an agenda,” he said of Coulter.

Most of the Mideast refugees are privately-sponsored and among those, 40% are now working a, figure he says “is quite good.”

Government-sponsored refugees tend to be less educated and about 10% of them have jobs, said Birjandian, who fled religious persecution in Iran 30 years ago.

“The reality is, it’s a struggle, but we should make sure they succeed,” he said.

He said one study shows that within 20 years, the rate of home ownership among one-time refugees is on par with those born in Canada while in Calgary, it’s 10% higher.

“On a settlement level, they’re doing quite well, they have kids in school learning, who’ll start working,” said Birjandian.



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