Joe Friesen presents a detailed statistical report on the Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada over the past year, showing the numbers involved, which form of sponsorship brought them in and their distribution around the country. In an associated article on December 5 — One year after arrival, Syrian refugees continue to face employment barriersTavia Grant reports on the challenges the refugees have faced in gaining and settling into employment.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How many refugees from Syria have arrived in Canada, what kind of demographics make up their numbers and what kinds of challenges have they faced in gaining employment in Canada?

New Terminology:

Demographics, integration, transitioning

Materials Needed:

Globe articles

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

During the federal election campaign in 2015, the outgoing Conservative Government ran on a platform that included warning Canadians about the risks of accepting refugees from Syria due to concerns about their possible terrorist tendencies. This contrasted with the challenging Liberals, who promised to fast-track Syrian refugees into Canada. The Liberals won a majority and a year later they have accepted approximately 35,000 refugees from Syria and, to date, there have been no known terrorist threats as a result.

That said, refugees and their sponsors have faced challenges, including language training, housing and gaining employment in their new home. Students can benefit from a lesson in summarizing the data on these refugees and presenting it in report form. They will use the accompanying articles as sources for a homework assignment in which they write a  report on the 2015-2016 Syrian refugee settlement in Canada.

Action (lesson plan and task):

NOTE: If there are Syrian refugees among your students, you may wish to involve them in this lesson by inviting them to tell stories of how they came to Canada and how they have fared since. You may consider asking them for a separate short report on their concerns and challenges, as well as a description of their overall experience in Canada since their arrived.

Start a brief discussion with students about Canada’s acceptance of Syrian refugees. You might ask whether they know any refugees and if so, how they appear to be doing; ask if they know how many refugees have been accepted and where they have made their homes in Canada so far. Finally, ask if they remember the warnings about refugees and terrorism from more than a year ago, and if so, whether they think these warnings were exaggerated or fair.

For homework, assign a written report on the current status of Syrian refugees in Canada, use the attached articles as sources in completing the assignment. Their report is to be titled, “Report on the status of Syrian refugees in Canada at year-end, 2016.” They should address the following questions in prose, rather than point, form:

  • How many Syrian refugees has Canada accepted over the past year?
  • In which major cities have most of the refugees settled?
  • Which province has accepted the fewest numbers of refugees? The most?
  • Approximately how many refugees are under the age of eighteen?
  • What percentage of refugees have a university education?
  • Approximately how many refugees speak English to some degree?
  • What are the two forms of sponsorship under which the refugees were settled?
  • Which form of sponsorship has resulted in higher employment numbers and by how much?
  • Why is housing a particular issue for the refugees?
  • What are Mr. Almekdad’s professional credentials and what kind of work did he do in Syria?
  • Why does Mr. Almekdad believe he has had difficulty in getting a job in Canada?
  • How long do refugees receive income support after arrival in Canada?
  • What does Mr. Birjandian suggest are some reasons refugees may have a difficult time adjusting to life in Canada?
  • What do employers say about the refugees they’ve hired to date?
  • What did the city of Halifax do to help the newcomers get jobs?

Finally, write what you think about the refugees’ and Canadians’ experiences about this issue:

  • What surprised you, if anything, about what you learned in these articles?
  • Was it a good idea to bring in the Syrian refugees? Why or why not?
  • How could Canada do a better job in helping refugees transition to life and work in Canada?
  • Do you think Canada should bring in more or fewer refugees in the future? Justify your answer.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their reports in a later class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can describe the approximate numbers and demographics of Syrian refugees who have come to Canada in the past year, as well as describing some of the challenges they and the Canadian sponsors have had to overcome in helping them settle and find work.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on news items about Syrian refugees over the balance of the school year.