Some 100,000 Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent have been living in refugee camps run by the United Nations since the early 1990's, having been forced to leave Bhutan and live in exile.

Following repeated failed attempts at repatriation, a group of seven Western countries agreed to accept 70,000 of these refugees. Canada will be welcoming 5,000 of them over the next five years. To support this project, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Canada (CIMC) has allocated $1.3 million for advance health screening of the Bhutanese coming to Canada and to provide treatment, where necessary, before they relocate.

The first group arrived in Canada this week, settling in Saint-Jerôme, Quebec. The province of Quebec has taken care of providing them with initial settlement funding to cover their basic needs, such as clothing and household items. They will also have access to language instruction and other integration services to ease their settlement into Quebec society.

The next group of Bhutanese refugees will arrive in various Canadian cities in early 2009.

"This is truly the start of a momentous journey for the Bhutanese refugees, who are finally in a place where they can be assured of safety and security," stated CIMC Minister Jason Kenney. "These individuals, and those still to come, bring with them hopes, dreams and skills that build an even richer and more prosperous society. I am proud of out country's long-standing humanitarian tradition of providing protection to refugees."

Every year, Canada resettles 10,000 to 12,000 refugees through its government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs. In 2007, Canada welcomed refugees from 70 different nations.

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Canada has been implementing a new approach to sponsor large groups of refugees together.