N.S. opposition worries health workers recruited from refugee camp could lack housing

N.S. opposition worries health workers recruited from refugee camp could lack housing

The Nova Scotia government must guarantee housing for the 65 health workers it recently recruited from a Kenyan refugee camp, opposition parties said on Thursday.

NDP leader Claudia Chender told reporters she was excited about increasing immigration to Nova Scotia but said she was concerned that people would be recruited to a province that lacks public services and housing.

“When we bring vulnerable people into Nova Scotia, and that probably includes people from refugee camps who are believed to have been displaced. We need to make sure they have accommodations and services in advance,” Chender said.

“Otherwise we risk doing people a disservice and harming them.”.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson announced on Wednesday that the provincial government had made conditional offers to 65 people to work as nursing assistants in the province after a recruitment trip to a refugee camp in Kenya. Nursing assistants are trained to help people in their daily lives who need support in health and long-term care facilities or in home care.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is finding the right healthcare professionals to fill the vacancies we have across Nova Scotia,” Thompson said in a statement. “There are talented and qualified people around the world who would love to come here and we would love to have them.”

Housing Secretary John Lohr, who has described Nova Scotia’s housing shortage as a “crisis,” said Thursday after a cabinet meeting that his department was working on a solution to accommodate the new workers due to come to the province this summer or fall.

Lohr said he was optimistic the government would find a solution, adding he hoped to announce something on the issue in the “coming weeks”.

Liberal leader Zach Churchill told reporters Thursday the government’s plan to house workers and provide them with health care is better.

“It’s important that we do this – but we have to plan to accommodate them and make sure our healthcare system can take care of their needs,” he said. “We also need to help them integrate into our community.”

Chender repeated his concerns.

“I think it’s the biggest dissonance in our government’s approach in recent years: there’s a single-minded focus on immigration as we see housing and public services eroding,” she said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 5, 2023.

This story was produced with financial support from Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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