Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for Calgary Nose Hill for the question she asked on January 30, 2017, which I hope to answer today on behalf of the government. Once again, I thank you, Madam Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to rise today on this important subject.
I want to assure the member that offering protection in a timely manner to government-sponsored refugees and those selected through private sponsorship is a priority for the government.
Like many Canadians, and like the member herself, I am sure, I was heartened to see the spirit of generosity with which Canadians responded to the government's call for support in our efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in 2016. Despite the program's success, it comes with its share of challenges, including the tremendous interest demonstrated by private sponsors. We received many more applications than we were able to process within the limits of Canada's annual immigration levels, and that reality is what led to longer processing times and the need to impose restrictions on the number of new applications we can receive.
Canada's target for 2017 is to resettle 25,000 refugees, from all populations. Planned admissions for resettled refugees in 2017 are double those established for 2015 and in preceding years. Canada will welcome one of the highest numbers of refugees and protected persons in Canadian history and that is something we can proud of.
An important measure to reduce the number of applications to process and the wait time for privately sponsored refugees is the government's commitment to meet its 2017 admissions target of 16,000 privately sponsored refugees, which more than triples average admissions prior to 2015.
By increasing the annual target, we could process more applications, which will help reduce the number of applications to process as well as the wait time. At the same time, it is important that the government maintains its refugee programs. That is why the annual immigration levels plan has a target of 7,500 government-sponsored refugees and 1,500 blended visa office-referred refugees, which the hon. member is certainly aware of. Most privately sponsored refugees have family or community ties with their sponsors.
Without government sponsorship of refugees, people who need protection and have no family ties with people in Canada, and for whom resettlement in a third country is the only option, could not come to Canada. These people need government-sponsored refugee programs.
There are almost 60 million refugees and displaced people in the world. Canada will continue to take action and welcome people, no matter their religion or ethnic origin.
We can also take action to help countries that are receiving large numbers of refugees, such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, or any other country. We can contribute by trying to resolve conflicts and wars that have forced so many people to become refugees. Canada is in a unique position that allows it to have all kinds of positive influence on the outcomes for refugees around the world. That is what we plan on doing and that is what we are already doing.
Once again, I thank the member for her question and her noble intentions.