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

By Canadian Press

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

NDP Leader Claudia Chender told reporters she’s happy to see increased immigration to Nova Scotia but said she is worried about people being recruited to a province that lacks public services and housing.

“If we're going to bring vulnerable people into Nova Scotia, and that would include probably people coming from refugee camps, presumably who have been displaced …. We need to ensure that they have housing and services up front,” Chender said.

“Otherwise we risk doing a real disservice and harm to people.”.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson announced Wednesday that following a recruitment trip to a refugee camp in Kenya, the provincial government gave 65 people conditional offers to work as continuing-care assistants in the province. Continuing-care assistants are trained to help with daily living for those who need support in health- and long-term care facilities, or through home care.

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

Housing Minister John Lohr, who has described Nova Scotia's housing shortage as a “crisis,” said Thursday after a cabinet meeting that his department is working on a solution to house the new workers, who are set to arrive in the province this summer or fall.

Lohr said he’s optimistic the government will find a solution, adding that he hopes to announce something on the topic in the “coming weeks.”

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill told reporters Thursday the government's plan to house and deliver health care to the workers better be good.

“It’s important that we do this — but we have to plan to house them and ensure our health-care system can look after their needs,” he said. “We also need to be supporting them in terms of integrating in our community.”

Chender echoed his concerns.

“I think it’s the biggest dissonance in our government’s approach over these last couple of years: there’s a single-minded focus on immigration while we see housing and public services erode,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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