From Fredricton to Halifax, we’ve heard ample challenges regarding the settlement efforts of refugees, several of which have manifested as schoolyard bullying.
Parents from across the country have reached out to share their own stories as well, prompting investigations into a number of school boards to get a handle on what they’ve experienced and how they’re handling them.
We sent a Freedom of Information request to the Halton District School Board, just west of Toronto, for “copies of any documents, including e-mails, memos, briefing notes, reports, etc. regarding any problems or issues that have arisen in dealing with the integration of children from Syrian refugee families who are newly arrived in Canada, since December 1, 2015.”
The request was broad, but the response from the school board was laughable.
“No records exist regarding any ‘problems or issues’ that would be specific to the integration of children from Syrian refugee families; however we would be pleased to further outline the processes undertaken by the Welcome Centre in meeting the needs of newcomer students including those from Syria and other countries, should you require this information,” a letter from Gail Gortmaker, the school board’s privacy and freedom of information coordinator, read.
Attached to the letter was quite literally a brochure promoting the school’s Welcome Centre.
The assertion that there have been no issues runs contrary to past public statements by the school board’s superintendent of education, Rob Eatough. In an interview with InsideHalton.com in January, Eatough said that language issues were presenting themselves with a shortage of Arabic-speaking staff.
“Many of the families speak Arabic and the board doesn’t appear to have many employees who also speak it, said Eatough,” the article noted.
In the school board’s response to our FOI request, Gortmaker specified issues “that would be specific to the integration of children from Syrian refugee families,” suggesting that if the board thinks bullying and language challenges are general issues rather than refugee-specific, they think it would be justifiable to not include them.
The government has failed to prevent and address many of these issues, which is why I’m digging into them.
Click HERE to see the response we received.