BEYOND THE HEADLINES: No free ride for refugees

It’s unfortunate that refugees have become a lightning rod again at Vernon city hall.

On Monday, Coun. Scott Anderson went head-to-head with his colleagues over providing free swim and transit passes to a refugee family brought here by a church.

“Refugees are sponsored by organizations,” said Coun. Scott Anderson, who raised similar concerns last year.

“Why are we as a city putting money into folks who are sponsored when others don’t have this support?”

Now Anderson is correct that refugees are sponsored by churches, individuals or non-profit groups, but they are responsible for rent, food and all other living expenses, particularly if federal funding is not available. These groups raise this money and it’s extremely limited given housing costs.

Anderson also makes the argument that refugees are getting something that others can’t.

“Refugees are not handicapped or mentally challenged. They have supports that others do not,” he said.

However, the reality is that the city, with taxpayers’ money, has a long history of helping those who have financial resources, albeit limited.

In the last three years, United Way has received 2,000 transit tickets annually which are distributed to residents in need, particularly in emergency situations, while the Vernon School District and the city fund a program so developmentally challenged students receive transit travel training.

In terms of recreation, people with a permanent disability can receive a 25 per cent discount for select programs at the Vernon Recreation Complex, while there is a 25 per cent discount for residents 65 and older to purchase a swim, fitness gym or skating pass. And for people receiving financial assistance from the provincial or federal governments, they may receive a 75 per cent discount on select programs such as public swimming, the weight room and Aquafit classes.

In 2014, the discount for recreation was expanded for children and youth with disabilities.

“This recreation discount pass is changing lives and we are very thankful to have this program in our community,” said Annette Sharkey, with the Social Planning Council, at that time.

And that’s also the goal for the refugees, who if you get past that label, are actually our new neighbours.

No matter the country of origin, they were forced out of their homes by violence and, in many cases, they spent years living in camps in extremely challenging conditions. Many Canadians express concerns about the refugees’ ability to integrate into our society because of cultural and linguistic differences but one way of resolving that is exposing them to the community at large. Transit allows them to explore their new home while accessing English classes and ultimately going out to find a job.

Subsidies for accessibility programs are firmly entrenched in the city budget and are available to eligible residents annually, whereas those for refugees are one-time for a year (in the case of the family approved Monday, it’s only for the remainder of 2017 or $400).

Yes there is a price to be paid for helping refugees, but one thing is clear, they aren’t jumping the queue or getting any special favours at the expense of those in need.

Just Posted

Outbreak at Okanagan hospital

Gastrointestinal illness reported at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Secondary school ranks first in national competition

A local high school’s work in post-secondary preparedness has garnered national recognition

Dedicated volunteers look for clues

Police appreciate work of those who provide extra eyes for missing women investigations.

Dueck answers Hall’s call

Vernon’s Josh Dueck elected to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame

Big Band supports children with disabilities in Lake Country

Proceeds from the Okanagan Big Band performance in Vernon supports local kids

Christmas spirit rounded up at Ranch

O’Keefe Ranch celebrates the season with Victorian Christmas

Choir presents a cozy collection of Christmas tunes

Tapestry Women’s Choir and Fireflies Children’s Choir take the Armstrong Bible Chapel stage Dec. 16

Horgan says pot smokers may face same outdoor rules as cigarette smokers

B.C. is developing its rules on recreational marijuana

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

Vernon Off Road Motorcycle Club looks back at 2017 season

Half Throttle, Great Trails, highlight 2017 season

B.C. teacher suspended after explicit images projected to class

Jeffrey Rohin Muthanna had been viewing porn on a school laptop for two years

Worship night celebrates with Christmas concert

Hear The Music is back with a Christmas concert Dec. 17 at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre

Armstrong purse project puts women first

When money is tight, even the essentials can become luxury items

Man who pledged to give B.C. hockey team millions charged with fraud

Mike Gould has since repaid $8,000 he allegedly owed Cranbrook restaurant, owner says

Most Read