THERE WERE NO GOOD REA­SONS TO MAKE A BIG SHOW OF SAUDI RU­N­AWAY ALQU­NUN’S AR­RIVAL IN CANADA, AND PLENTY OF GOOD REA­SONS NOT TO. YET THE FOR­EIGN AF­FAIRS MIN­IS­TER WAITED WITH OPEN ARMS.

PressReader - LStep Channel - THERE WERE NO GOOD REA­SONS TO MAKE A BIG SHOW OF SAUDI RU­N­AWAY ALQU­NUN’S AR­RIVAL IN CANADA, AND PLENTY OF GOOD REA­SONS NOT TO. YET THE FOR­EIGN AF­FAIRS MIN­IS­TER WAITED WITH OPEN ARMS.
If Canada were a proud and prin­ci­pled bea­con unto the world’s most down­trod­den, as so many so of­ten claim, then one might have ex­pected Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun to ar­rive at Pear­son Air­port in Toronto on Satur­day with rel­a­tively lit­tle fan­fare.Canada re­set­tles tens of thou­sands of refugees ev­ery year, af­ter all, and many are flee­ing cir­cum­stances just as hor­rific as the Saudi teenager’s abuse by her fam­ily.Cana­dian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are guard­ing Alqu­nun’s cur­rent where­abouts partly on grounds she might still be in dan­ger even half­way around the world — an idea given cre­dence by Den­nis Ho­rak, who was Canada’s am­bas­sador in Riyadh un­til he was ex­pelled over the sum­mer.In­deed, Saudi-cana­dian re­la­tions are not in ter­rific shape just at the mo­ment, thanks to our pub­lic re­bukes of its treat­ment of ac­tivists, and grant­ing im­me­di­ate asy­lum to the world’s high­est-pro­file Saudi refugee seems un­likely to help mat­ters. One might very rea­son­ably not give a damn about the House of Saud’s amour pro­pre, but Ot­tawa would clearly pre­fer to re­pair those re­la­tions. Quite apart from any­thing else, it would give Canada more-than-zero lever­age in lob­by­ing on be­half of those ac­tivists — in­clud­ing im­pris­oned blog­ger Raif Badawi, whose wife is a Cana­dian cit­i­zen.There were no good rea­sons to make a big show of Alqu­nun’s ar­rival, in other words, and plenty of good rea­sons not to. Fur­ther­more, Justin Trudeau has been very clear about what he thinks of us­ing refugees as po­lit­i­cal props. He was at his most thes­pian back in 2015 when it was al­leged Stephen Harper’s of­fice had been sift­ing through ap­pli­ca­tions from Syr­ian asy­lum seek­ers in search of po­ten­tial photo ops.“That’s DIS-GUST-ING,” Trudeau hissed at a cam­paign stop in Rich­mond, B.C. “That’s not the Canada we want; that’s not the Canada we need to build."In the end, though, there was For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land with her arm draped around Alqu­nun, an­nounc­ing that this “brave new Cana­dian” would not be tak­ing ques­tions. Luck­ily, Free­land her­self had ar­rived equipped with some crim­son talk­ing points."I be­lieve in light­ing a sin­gle can­dle,” she said. “Where we can save a sin­gle per­son, where we can save a sin­gle woman, that is a good thing to do. … And I’d like to also em­pha­size, this is part of a broader Cana­dian pol­icy of sup­port­ing women and girls in Canada and around the world.”“Canada is a coun­try that un­der­stands how im­por­tant it is to stand up for hu­man rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau chimed in.It would be well-nigh im­pos­si­ble to ar­gue against hear­ing, at the very least, Alqu­nun’s claim for asy­lum. But at this point, she is cer­tainly also a po­lit­i­cal prop — a liv­ing sym­bol of the Lib­eral view of Canada’s place in the world, and an al­ways-wel­come op­por­tu­nity for self-con­grat­u­la­tion.“We are demon­strat­ing our moral lead­er­ship on the is­sue of gen­der equal­ity,” Univer­sity of Water­loo pro­fes­sor Bessma Mo­mani wrote in The Globe and Mail. “It was an­other proud mo­ment for Canada,” gushed Cather­ine Porter, The New York Times’ Toronto cor­re­spon­dent. It “fur­ther ce­ment(ed) the coun­try’s sta­tus as a bas­tion of refuge in a world where Western na­tions have be­come in­creas­ingly hos­tile to refugees,” the Times’ Twit­ter ac­count ef­fused.“Any woman from Saudi Ara­bia should be able to make a cred­i­ble case for asy­lum in this coun­try based on the hu­man rights abuses they en­dure there,” the Toronto Star’s ed­i­to­rial board averred. And on and on and on.Saudi Ara­bia is a coun­try of 33 mil­lion peo­ple. So no, not ev­ery woman there can claim asy­lum in Canada. I sus­pect the Lib­er­als might balk at five high-pro­file claims in rapid suc­ces­sion. That’s what they do. The Lib­er­als made a big show of re­set­tling 25,000 Syr­ian refugees while var­i­ous Euro­pean na­tions ac­cepted many mul­ti­ples of that; now they brag about how ac­cept­ing Cana­di­ans are of refugees rel­a­tive to Europe, as if one didn’t largely ex­plain the other. They de­nounce any wor­ries about asy­lum seek­ers cross­ing the bor­der il­le­gally as rank in­tol­er­ance, while wav­ing the new ar­rivals into an in­ter­minable and dis­as­trously un­der-re­sourced queue.There are mil­lions upon mil­lions of dis­placed peo­ple around the world in whom you might ex­pect a giant, wealthy and mostly empty coun­try that prides it­self on re­set­tling refugees to take an in­ter­est. They aren’t even on the radar.NDP MP Char­lie An­gus has a more re­al­is­tic take on what Canada is: “Thou­sands lan­guish in camps and Chrys­tia Free­land pro­motes sale of death ma­chines to Saudis as chil­dren die in Yemen,” he tweeted in re­sponse to Free­land’s air­port press con­fer­ence. “For­eign pol­icy must be more than smug the­atre,” he added.Well, there’s the rub: Must it?Cana­di­ans of all po­lit­i­cal stripes take in­or­di­nate pride in ob­jec­tively mod­est con­tri­bu­tions to all man­ner of global prob­lems. There is noth­ing in­her­ently dis­rep­utable in feel­ing pride when your coun­try does the right thing — but only if you in­sist that your coun­try does the right thing con­tin­u­ally, co­her­ently and con­sis­tently once the warm, fuzzy feel­ing fades away.Once she’s set­tled, if she is in­clined to re­main in the pub­lic eye, Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun might be the ideal per­son to ham­mer that point home.

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