After the France attacks, there has been a backlash against immigrants, and in particular, some people have voiced their concerns about bringing refugees into our country (Canada). I thought I'd start a thread about what our respective countries are pledging to provide in refugee assistance, along with discussing the pros, cons, concerns, and whether the goals are feasible.
The Government of Canada has pledged to bring in 25,000 refugees before the end of December. Our government is working to resettle them into vacant army bases and institutions, sponsorship programs, and working with the private sector. Although this is an enormous project, I have faith in our country's capacity to rise to the challenge. Back in 1976, Canada admitted 5,000 Vietnamese immigrants. In 1979 and 1980, we admitted another 50,000 people from Vietnam, refugees who later became known as the "Boat People," and we helped them settle in Canada.
The circumstances are much different this time, and citizens are rightfully concerned that security and safety of Canadian citizens must be paramount. There are valid concerns that bringing in so many people in such a short period of time could make us vulnerable to terrorists slipping in through the process. These concerns escalated after a Syrian passport was found lying close to the body of a suicide bomber in the deadly Paris attacks. It has not been determined if the passport is authentic or a forgery. Greek officials said the man linked to the passport entered the country through Leos, which is one of the islands used as a gateway to Europe by refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq.
Overall, I have confidence that Canada can achieve its humanitarian goal without compromising the safety of Canadians, due to the intensive screening process.
- The UNHCR has already triaged the refugees and assessed those that would make ideal candidates for re-settlement. Less than 5 percent of asylum seekers make that initial cut. For these candidates, there is additional security screening so that UN officials can learn their background.
- Second, Canadian visa officers conduct additional screening and interviews with this group to ensure there is consistency in their cases
- And third, there is an additional security screening process of the candidates by Canadian security agencies, including CBSA, CSIS and the RCMP.
The process can be fairly quick, especially with the help of officials working on the ground in refugee camps and in countries where refugees have fled to. The experts and staff working in camps will be able to generally determine which refugees pose a security risk and which don't. When the Syrian civil war began four years ago, the first refugees out of Syria were people who were primarily secular, politically active and pro-democratic. They've now been in the neighbouring countries as refugees for four years. We know who these people are. So it's not really that difficult to identify 25,000 that fit into low-risk security categories.
Canada has a history of providing humanitarian assistance to refugees. On average, our country resettles approximately 13,000 overseas refugees per year. We have a network of settlement agencies and experienced settlement workers in most of our cities. Canada also has a network of refugee sponsorship groups, many of them church-related, that has been resettling refugees since 1979 through Canada’s Private Sponsorship program. These groups have vast experience at settling refugees. And because of our vast immigrant population, thousands of refugees already have Canadian family members who are begging to sponsor and house them.
Across Canada, there has been an enormous surge of goodwill from Canadians eager to volunteer, to house, to donate, and help out in whatever way possible. As with the South-east Asian boat people in 1979, this is a very important point in time in Canadian history where, I am confident,we will once again rise to the occasion.