‘This is just the be­gin­ning’

How re­sponse to Syr­ian refugee cri­sis went from 10K in three years to months

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

When the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment promised, in Jan­uary 2015, to re­set­tle 10,000 Syr­ian refugees over three years, Lib­eral MP John McCal­lum didn’t buy it.

The Con­ser­va­tives were un­der pres­sure to ad­dress the on­go­ing refugee cri­sis cre­ated by the Syr­ian civil war — mil­lions of peo­ple were on the move and refugee set­tle­ments were burst­ing at the seams.

But pleas had fallen on deaf ears in­side then-prime min­is­ter’s Stephen Harper’s of­fice, in­clud­ing pitches from cab­i­net min­is­ters about how the gov­ern­ment could and should do more than the 1,300 peo­ple it al­ready com­mit­ted to bring­ing over.

Harper would only agree with a con­di­tion — the fo­cus had to be on per­se­cuted re­li­gious mi­nori­ties from the coun­try.

Given it was that or noth­ing, cab­i­net signed off, and on Jan. 7, a plan was an­nounced — 10,000 peo­ple would be brought to Canada by 2018, most by pri­vate spon­sors.

Then serv­ing as im­mi­gra­tion critic for his party, McCal­lum chided the gov­ern­ment for re­ly­ing on pri­vate spon­sors, say­ing they needed to lift more of the load them­selves. He was skep­ti­cal — given the Con­ser­va­tives’ track record — that they’d meet the dead­line.

“We could be wait­ing for­ever be­fore 10,000 Syr­ian refugees ar­rive in Canada,” he told one news out­let.

Well, it isn’t go­ing to be for­ever.

Be­fore the Lib­er­als took power on Nov. 4, about 1,263 Syr­i­ans had ar­rived in Canada un­der the Con­ser­va­tives’ com­mit­ment to 10,000.

Since Nov. 4, a fur­ther 6,064 have ar­rived un­der a Lib­eral cam­paign com­mit­ment — a prom­ise they par­tially ex­pect to meet in the first two weeks of 2016 with the ar­rivals of nearly 4,000 more for a full 10,000.

But like the Con­ser­va­tives be­fore them, the Lib­er­als are re­ly­ing on pri­vate spon­sors to hit that tar­get.

Many of the refugees who ar­rived in 2015 were cases opened un­der the Con­ser­va­tives, and some were al­ready be­ing fast­tracked — the Con­ser­va­tives sped up their time­lines when they be­gan get­ting blow back dur­ing the elec­tion.

A pho­to­graph of Alan Kurdi dead on a Turk­ish beach was the cat­a­lyst — the Syr­ian child and his fam­ily were try­ing to reach Europe. It emerged their fam­ily in B.C. had been try­ing to get some of them to Canada, but the pa­per­work was re­jected.

The sud­den at­ten­tion to the is­sue saw the Lib­er­als at­tach a timeline to their own Syr­ian refugee prom­ise — they’d re­set­tle 25,000 Syr­i­ans them­selves by the end of the year and work with pri­vate spon­sors to do more.

The num­ber dated back months, part of the Lib­eral pro­posal ad­vanced in March for how Canada could con­trib­ute to the war against ISIL.

When asked in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press how the Lib­er­als ar­rived at the num­ber, McCal­lum — now the im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter — said it was a sim­i­lar level to pre­vi­ous largescale refugee com­mit­ments.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.