Cornwall to look at striking Syrian refugee task force

Cornwall Coun. Bernadette Clement during an August 2015 council meeting. (Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL – With word the federal government may be looking at Cornwall as a spot for thousands of Syrian refugees, Coun. Bernadette Clement said it’s a question of being ready.

She successfully got her colleagues on side Monday night about looking into the possibility of compiling a task force.

“Wherever I go in the community and emails I receive, that people are wondering what they can do. I know teachers are getting together to try and sponsor a family. I know that members of the St. Peter’s Parish and getting together with the Anglican diocese to see if there is some project they can do together,” Clement said.

“I believe it’s time for the city to actually set up a committee,” she said, to coordinate and assist in taking some of the 25,000 refugees expected to land in Canada before the end of the year.

But Coun. David Murphy questioned what the committee would do when it’s not known what could be needed for the refugee population. “Get ready, what? We are going to prepare what?…I like the idea…it’s almost like creating a Christmas wish list, filling it, and then getting a different list,” he said.

Coun. Andre Rivette was concerned about the strain on regional services. He suggested the old general hospital site on Second Street should be outfitted with doctors to handle any refugees there, in order to take any strain off the Cornwall Community Hospital.

Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy made it clear that any actions on housing refugees in Cornwall is between Nav Center and the federal government. “We have absolutely nothing we can convey to them (the public),” the mayor said, “The city has been asked to do nothing.”

The report, coming back on Dec. 14, won’t cost the city any money, other than staff resources.

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