The National Council on Canada-Arab Relations (NCCAR) is pleased to share its “Key points and Backgrounders” project to educate and inform about important Canadian policy issues discussed during the 2015 Canadian federal elections.

NCCAR’s Media and Policy Analysis team will be developing non-partisan, educational “Key Points and Backgrounders” accessible to the public on a series of topics such as Canadian policy on Syrian refugees, potential impact of “security” policies as well as foreign policy in the Middle East and the Arab Word. NCCAR will also provide its perspectives on these issues.

These “Key Points and Backgrounders” are featured as part of Your Voice voter education campaign which NCCAR is a partner in along with the Canadian-Arab Institute.

Issue:

Prime Minister Harper’s announcement on August 10th to accept an additional 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Background:

On August 10th, 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would accept an additional 10,000 refugees (on top of 10,000 announced in Jan. 2015) from Iraq and Syria over the next four years, if his Conservative government is re-elected. He also pledged $9 million over the next three years in support of persecuted religious minorities. According to Mr. Harper, in addition to refugee policy and humanitarian aid, a strong military presence is necessary in the region to fight ISIS. He said, “The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria cannot be solved, cannot even come close to being solved, by refugee policy alone.”

Considerations:

What have politicians been saying?

The NDP has pointed out the Prime Minister’s inconsistent past with keeping promises made this January. The Liberal leader Mr Justin Trudeau has called for the expansion of the program to include 25,000 refugees directly sponsored and said that “The government’s plan to sponsor 4,000 Syrian refugees over three years was a good start, but it follows on a poor track record and does not go nearly far enough.”

What have commentators and experts been saying in the media?

The concerns expressed have been in the following areas:

  1. Currently, the program places the burden (including financially) on private sponsors and weakens the government’s pledge.
  2. The program could discriminate against refugees based on their faith by prioritizing claims from members of “religious minorities.
  3. The conservatives have yet to fulfill their previous pledges.

NCCAR’s Perspective:

Canada must speed up and increase its programs to help bring vulnerable Syrian refugees, without regard to religious background, to the safety of Canada. A mix of programs is required, including fast-track and flexible programs as well as family reunification programs. The government should directly sponsor a larger number of refugees while encouraging and speedily facilitating private sponsorships. A long-term, multi-pronged, multilateral plan is required that alleviates the humanitarian symptoms while providing political solutions. It is important that Canada does its fair share on all fronts. This will enhance our relations with the peoples and countries in the region and is consistent with our proud Canadian tradition of welcoming refugees and facilitating family reunification.

To read the complete document with the Key points and Backgrounder, click here.