by Janice Dickson in Ottawa
Helping Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn homes migrate to Canada is not a partisan issue, says new Conservative Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Critic Michelle Rempel, but the Liberal government has provided few details on their plan and there are many questions left unanswered.
“To me this is about compassion, but we also need to have a plan and the government has not shown Canadians [the plan] to date and we’ll keep asking those questions,” Rempel told iPolitics.
CTV News reported that the government is planning to source the majority of the 25,000 Syrian refugees from refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and likely Turkey. Citing leaked government documents, CTV News said 900 refugees are expected to arrive daily, starting as early as Dec. 1.
Taking questions from reporters today, however, Health Minister Jane Philpott said that report was old. Philpott was accompanied by Immigration Minister John McCallum, who said the government’s plan for resettling refugees will be announced next Tuesday.
Putting off the announcement of the plan time and time again is not likely what Canadians want to hear, said Rempel.
“My understanding is that they’re going to have a press conference today to talk about when they’re announcing their plan, so we’re not even close to having that happen yet and their deadline to show a plan has been bumped over and over again,” she said.
Many unanswered questions
According to CTV’s report, the refugees will be identified by the United Nations and screened on the ground by Canadian officials from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), which will examine documents and biometric data, like fingerprints.
This prompted Rempel to wonder, “what will that biometric data be screened against, what databases, what screening criteria are being used?”
“First of all, we don’t know what they’re being screened for and we don’t know what will happen if they fail the screening process,” she said.
According to CBC, the refugees will be housed in temporary military sites in Quebec and Ontario.
“What is the transition plan for 25,000 refugees in such a short period of time? I wouldn’t think that it’s appropriate to have people stay in very tight temporary quarters for an extended period of time,” said Rempel.
“What are the language services programs that are going to be provided? How are we ensuring that all elements of social inclusion are being thought of with regard to transition of refugees into Canadian society?” she asked, adding that things like language training, helping those who may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder from coming out of a region of war, are all questions that Canadians want answered.
“Frankly I think it’s very disappointing the government has not provided details to the Canadian public to date,” she said.
Need to consider magnitude of task
Rempel reiterated throughout the interview that Canadians want to help the Syrian refugees, but they have to know how to help. She also said it’s important to always be respectful when asking the government questions about its plan given the gravity of the humanitarian crisis that’s happening in the region.
“I think that we have to be compassionate … but we also have to ensure we’re understanding the magnitude of the task that’s in front of us. Twenty-five thousand in a very short period of time, I think roughly 40 days at this point, is something we need to consider very carefully,” she said.
“But also asking ourselves some pretty frank questions about our role in containing ISIS with our coalition partners. There’s a reason why many of these people are fleeing this region, ISIS has a big part to do with that,” she said.
Rempel said the additional question is whether it’s “prudent and is there reason for us to withdraw our CF-18s and some of our other military equipment from the region, why are we doing that, and will we have a full debate in Parliament to discuss that?”
Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.