Canada’s Response to the Refugee Crisis

This post has been percolating for over a month now. So sorry it’s a bit long but I like giving facts and doing my best to not misrepresent people. I don’t often include Bible verses on my blog but today I am.

Matthew 25:34-36

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

A few weeks ago I asked my local MP (the Honorable Ed Fast) about Canada’s response to the war against ISIS and the refugee crisis that has been made immeasurably worse because of it. I agree with MCC on this in that a lasting solution needs to be a non-military solution that removes or reduces the reasons for radicalization and works toward peace. I was concerned that the Prime Minister seemed to be advocating for more military action because of the refugee crisis.

His response was:

“With respect to the Syrian conflict, let me correct you by saying that the Prime Minister has not advocated for MORE military action (as you have suggested) but for a balanced approach which includes three pillars: humanitarian assistance (of which Canada is one of the world’s largest donors), military intervention and resettlement of refugees. We do not have any plans to increase our military presence in Syria and Iraq.”

So before I get into it lets look at the budget changes in regards to refugees and immigration this year:

Reductions in:

  • Refugee Protection
  • Citizenship for Newcomers and All Canadians
  • Family and Discretionary Immigration
  • Temporary Economic Residents
  • Canadian Influence in International Migration and Integration Agenda (Marketing)

Matched by an increase in:

  • Migration Control and Security Management

Now that probably has some understandable reasoning behind it and budgets are rather arcane in how they work, where money is sometimes allocated so you can say you allocated it but is expected not to be spent. So it’s only in retrospect that you can tell how much was actually put to anything. But I wanted to give that as a brief background.

Mr. Fast mentioned three pillars:

  • humanitarian assistance
  • military intervention
  • resettlement of refugees

So lets look at them.

Humanitarian Assistance

Humanitarian assistance is an important thing. And it was great to hear that Canada is doing a lot. Or rather it was until I read this over at MCC Canada:

Governments have an important role to play in helping to create a more sustainable life for others by investing in foreign aid. But Canada’s aid budget has fallen in recent years and is now at 0.24 percent of gross national income (GNI), well below the UN target of 0.7 percent.

Moreover, despite Canada’s commitment to reducing global hunger by helping small-scale farmers in developing countries, Canada’s aid budget for agricultural development has been declining. Funding in 2013 was 25 percent less than the average funding for the years 2009-2011.

That seems to tell a very different story. But it’s a matter of interpretation. Canada does have a high GNI so saying that Canada puts a significant amount of money forward for foreign aid is probably true. But it’s also true that it’s half of the UN target.

Resettlement of refugees

The Prime Minister and other CPC candidates have consistently used the phrase “most vulnerable populations” especially in reference to Syria with sources in the government clarifying that it means “religious minorities”.

Ok, that’s fine I’m sure there are a lot of religious minorities we can be helping.

Here’s a list (from wikipedia) of the main religious groups in Syria:

  • Muslims: 92.1% (4,053,349)
    • Sunni Muslims: 75%
    • Alawis: 11%
    • Druzes: 1% (Muslims do not consider Druzes to be Muslim)
  • Christians: 7.8% (344,621)
  • Jews: 0.1% (4,860)

Ahh, he must mean the Alawis, Druzes, Christians, and Jews making up almost 20% of the population. Except that the Alawis are some of the biggest supporters of Assad’s government. As the Canadian Government is opposed to Assad’s rule I doubt that they will consider his supporters to be “vulnerable minorities”. Which means that the “religious minorities” that are preferred are the Druzes, Christians, and Jews, or, essentially, anyone but Muslims.

That’s disappointing. Especially when you consider the amount of other red tape that’s been added to refugees in the last three years. It’s almost as if the whole system is being slowed down so that other people will deal with it before Canada has to step up.

 

Which leaves us with the third pillar.

Military Intervention

Mr. Fast has said that Canada doesn’t intend to increase it’s military actions in Syria. Which I would like to believe, but it doesn’t match what Stephen Harper said after the pictures of Aylan Kurdi were published.

“We have to take a firm and military stance against ISIS and that’s what we’re doing” (source)

That could be taken as holding the line and doing what we’re already doing, though I’m not sure if a few bombers is a “firm” stance, but it could be interpreted that way.

“It is simply not acceptable to pretend that you can deal with this crisis by dealing with just one small aspect of it,” (source)

This is interesting because no one is asking Canada to do only one thing (refugee resettlement). We’re asking Canada to do more in a whole range of humanitarian options (more about that later)

We need to do “more of everything.” Harper emphasized Canada’s military campaign against the Islamic State as essential to curbing the violence in Syria, and he criticized those that oppose Canada’s military campaign yet demand that we take in more refugees. (source)

And there we have it. That seems a direct contradiction to Mr. Fast. So which is it? Are we going to escalate our military forces or not?

It’s not that the Conservatives don’t want to do anything, because they are at least doing something. It’s that they don’t want to do more than they’re already doing. That combined with the popularity of military actions with the average Conservative leaning voter mean that military action gets prioritized.

 

So what’s my pitch?

Redirect the money and manpower we’re spending on killing a handful to helping thousands. Food, clothing (like the winter coats our PM was so scornful of), humanitarian aid, ensuring safe passage outside of borders for displaced people, helping countries in turmoil to work out peace treaties and work toward peaceful solutions.

It’s been brought up that security  checks are a major barrier. Ok then, how about we focus on clearing that barrier. What can Canada do to add capacity to the screening process?

Sure you might think it’s naive to try to work for peace, but how well has working for war done over the last ten years?

The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Psalm 33:17

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