Canadian rights groups demand a stronger Canadian response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Canadian rights groups demand a stronger Canadian response to the Syrian refugee crisis

by: Obert Madondo  | Sep 11, 2015

Responding to the recent heart-rending drowning death of Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, thousands of Canadians rallied under the banner, "Refugees Welcome," and participated in vigils and marches calling on the Canadian political leadership to act on the growing Middle East refugee crisis. (Photo: No One Is Illegal/Facebook).
Responding to the recent heart-rending drowning death of Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, thousands of Canadians rallied under the banner, “Refugees Welcome,” and participated in vigils and marches calling on the Canadian political leadership to act on the growing Middle East refugee crisis. (Photo: No One Is Illegal/Facebook).

Canadian refugee and rights groups are demanding a stronger Canadian response to the worsening Syrian refugee crisis.

On Friday, Amnesty International, Canadian Council for Refugees, Syrian Canadian Council, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and eight other organizations released a “comprehensive set of recommendations that should form the basis of Canada’s response to the crisis.”

“Canada has the experience and the capacity to make a substantial response to the Syrian refugee crisis and Canadians have shown they have the will,” said Loly Rico, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “We are proposing clear recommendations to make the response a reality,”

The recommendations include:

  • a dramatically increase in “Canada’s commitment to resettle a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year, without reducing existing refugee resettlement commitments”;
  • expedited “private sponsorships by Syrian Canadians, allowing them to quickly bring their family members to safety in Canada”; and
  • increased “processing speeds for all refugee applicants by eliminating needless red tape and providing extra resources to visa offices and processing centres.”

The recommendations came after 3-year old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach last week after 12 Syrian refugees drowned when their boats capsized as they tried to flee from the civil war in their home country.

Over the weekend, thousands of Canadians participated in “Refugees Welcome” vigils and marches calling on the government to act on the refugee crisis. The New Democrats have committed to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year if they form the next government after the 2015 federal election, scheduled for October 19.

RELATED: Aylan Kurdi’s drowning death exposes Canada’s inaction on the Syrian refugee crisis

The organizations’ recommendations, as well as the demands of ordinary Canadians and political parties, are a call for an immediate return to Canada’s compassionate past. In 2005, Canada took in 35,000 refugees from around the world. Then, the Conservatives came to power the next year and everything changed. Over the last ten years, Conservatives have radicalized Canada’s asylum system.

As I blogged earlier:

According to the UN, Canada has now tumbled to the bottom of the top 15 refugee-receiving countries. Five years ago, Canada was in the top five. Of the 866,000 asylum claims lodged around the world in 2014, Canada received 13,500. By comparison, Sweden, which has a quarter of Canada’s population, accepted 75,100 refugees.

In January, the Harper government promised to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years. So far this year, Canada has accepted only 1,000. Only 188 of the successful claims are government-sponsored.

Last year, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Conservatives’ 2012 cancellation of federal health care for refugees was “cruel and unusual” treatment of the “vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged” seeking Canada’s protection.

On Thursday, the Ottawa Citizen reported, “Canada’s immigration department returned more than $350 million to the federal treasury in unspent funds over a three-year period, a sum that included millions for processing refugee applications and helping asylum-seekers settle into Canada.”

It’s unlikely that Harper will be moved by the rights organizations’ recommendations. The Conservative leader doesn’t really care about the two in three people in Canada who want the country to do more to bring Syrian refugees to Canada.

He has promised to welcome more refugees if re-elected on October 19. But he insists that escalating Canada’s unwinnable war against the Islamic State terrorist group is the most effective way to contain the Syrian refugee crisis.

This week, we learned that Harper just hired Lynton Crosby, a race-baiting, anti-immigrant Australian “master of dog whistle politics”, to reboot the Conservatives’ faltering campaign.

As former Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s campaign manager, Crosby used words and phrases like “‘un-Australian’ and ‘illegals’ in a veiled pitch for support from racist, white Australians.”

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow me on Twitter: @Obiemad

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