Are closed schools potential infrastructure for Syrian Refugees?

We are all aware of the Syrian Refugee crisis that has inspired grassroots community participation right across Canada. We also know that the newly-elected Canadian government is now grappling with their campaign commitment to allow 25,000 refugees into the country. And one of the proposed solutions for short-term shelter is to house refugees on military bases. 

The challenge? This is Canada and WINTER is fast approaching. How do you accommodate that many people all at once, and provide access to basic needs such as shelter, warmth, food, washrooms, medical care, and so on. 

As I was pondering this from a local perspective (I.E. how could we do this here with no built infrastructure?), it occurred to me that we already have some large public buildings that have traditionally been used to shelter hundreds of people, with heating systems, multiple bathrooms, cafeterias, medical clinics, admin offices, and so on. And also that a number of these buildings are currently being deemed "surplus to current requirements," for lack of a better term.

I'm referring to the local schools that are proposed for imminent closure. See HERE. 

Is this idea completely crazy?

I know, I know. There are funding issues to be worked out. Like who pays for cleaning staff, cooking staff, and so on. But I think that the federal government could help with that IF the political will is there. 

Would it not be ironic if, due to our declining circumstances, we have the critical infrastructure that enables our federal government to shelter these refugees, who so need our help at this time. 

And, if the solution also helps us with our demographic problem and build a stronger community in the long run, well that's just the icing on the cake.

I have faith that our community would rise to this challenge, and would rally to help these folks. Because that's who we are. We help those in need, even though we are not as well off as some other communities. Or perhaps because we know firsthand what it's like to do without.

What do you think? Does this idea make sense or is it too far out of the box? Share your thoughts below. 

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James MacKinnon Follow Me
Smart. Really smart. In fact I don't know if the argument could even be made for there being a better equipped facility for the refugees during transition. Some of the schools would even have fenced playgrounds for the children to help add some normalcy back into their lives. I think the proximity to residential areas would also go a long way (versus military bases) to help introduce Syrians to Canadian culture, and vice versa. Again, really smart way of making the best of a bad situation.
Richard Lorway My Post Follow Me
Thanks, James. Nice to get the odd bit of validation now and then. Lets me know that I have not completely lost it! 8^) Also, a great comment about having these families in locations where they are not isolated from community. Good thinking!
Peter Ross Follow Me
The more I think about this idea, the more I like it. Brilliant. I wonder what it would take to make something like this happen?
Mathew Georghiou Follow Me
Sounds like a perfect solution. The Feds are going to have to put big money into supporting the immigration plan anyway, so why not welcome a few hundred here and turn our problems into solutions.
Joe Ward Follow Me
I have been thinking about how these school closures could be a great opportunity for a Federal pilot project in guaranteeing pre-school, free and/or highly subsidized childcare for all families, for children aged 2 and up (by parental choice, not requirement). This would be done in order to help moms and dads get back to school or the workforce without being constrained by the lack of childcare at all, or affordably so. And it fits with the NDP narrative and to some extent the Liberal narrative (TBD) about that being an area we need to improve. It would also provide interim opportunities for teachers that want to live and work here, but are faced with declining student enrollment. That being said, it's off topic. So, I like the idea especially if it's 100% federally funded. Here are the only things that jumped into mind as potential issues: > This would be very temporary housing, with all shared facilities. Better than being stranded, but not a real home. This is not ideally how we want these people to have to live for any extended period of time. They should be welcomed into a sense of normalcy, which equates to apartments and houses. So if this went forward, I'd like to see the Feds commit to immediately approving and breaking ground on 2-5x (depending on number of refugees coming) buildings with the scope of that of Chernin's project. In fact, that project would be a model. And these buildings should be developed in close proximity to our downtown core (i.e. reasonable walking distance). > Though the buildings have the space to be retrofitted into actual apartments, I think it would be more cost effective to actually invest in new apartment buildings. And it might not be the best idea to modify these buildings significantly, in a temporary way, as they could be utilized for something closer to their original intent in the future, and we would want to avoid the cost of reversing any changes made for the temporary housing. (cont'd)
Joe Ward Follow Me
Part II > Medical care has to jump out as a concern. Though we are the type of community (for the most part) that operates with goodwill and heart, our willingness to share our medical capacity does not change the fact that we are already lacking of enough to meet the needs of our community. We don't have enough doctors for people; we rely on orphan clinics; and our emergency rooms often close due to inability to staff. When they are open, the sick or injured face monstrous, disheartening delays in getting help. So while bring new people to our community would increase demand here, these people would also face challenges trying to get medical care as well. > We also have no answer to the question of employment for them. While I supposed we would be hopeful they would have some form of income assistance provided, that is not a long term solution if we are community building. Could we train those who arrive to prepare for careers in the oil industry, and recommend that they follow the same pattern as our western migrant workers? New Dawn has a fast turnaround welding course. They are also programs running for heavy equipment operation, and all of the trades. Similar to citizenship, it might also be feasible to set up a government department here, such as a service center to work with incoming requests/calls from refugee status applicants, handled in their native language, and training/employ many of our refugees to work in those positions. If we're being transparent, it's also worthy of noting that there is certainly a segment of our society here in Cape Breton that is anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and (in some cases) overtly racist - and this very real sector of our society is against strategies like these. Not that they are too be given too much consideration, but we can at least keep it present of mind that there will be strong, ugly, vocal opposition in some circles.
Mathew Georghiou Follow Me
Cornwallis facility ready to house hundreds of refugees:

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