Canadian real estate magnate to help house refugees

by Ryan Smith

A Canadian real estate magnate is working to provide temporary housing for Syrian refugees.
Property developers Ian Gillespie, founder of Westbank Developments, is renovating and furnishing a 12-unit property in Vancouver to provide temporary accommodations to refugees awaiting permanent homes in British Columbia, according to a CBC News report.

“For me, it started with what I’m best able to do,” Gillespie told CBC News. “Some can volunteer time, donate money. …We’re in the property business, so it seemed an obvious place to start.

Gillespie said that his company did an audit and found that the building – which was awaiting demolition to make way for a major redevelopment by the company – was sitting empty. He called the Immigrant Services Society and offered a minimum commitment of four months’ use, according to CBC News.

“I don’t even think he finished his sentence before I said yes,” the Immigrant Services Society’s Chris Friesen told CBC News.

Gilliespie, meanwhile, told CBC that he was disappointed by some of the negative reactions to the refugees.

“Some of the dialogue you’re hearing isn’t particularly Canadian. I think a lot of people need to show some leadership and turn the conversation into a positive,” he said. “We had a well-earned reputation for being good citizens. I think we lost some of that and have lost the concept of (all of us) being immigrants. We are one of the most multicultural cities in the world.”

Gillespie told CBC that Canada has a responsibility to help where it can.

And to those who might be fearful, grow up,” he said.

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