Really the Best We Can Do?

June 3rd, 2014

When the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian uprising of 1956, Canada responded decisively to the plight of the 200,000 refugees who fled for their lives. Back then, the Canadian population was less than half of what it is today, and yet we managed to resettle almost 40,000 victims of the hammer and sickle within our borders. We stood tall in the world as an example of what a wealthy, developed society could aspire to.

In the ensuing years, albeit on a smaller scale, Canada continued to exhibit this generous spirit, as can be seen from the following figures on refugee resettlement:

  • 1979 – 4000 Vietnamese
  • 1992 – 5000 Bosnians
  • 1999 – 5000 Kosovar Albanians

Fast forward to today as the horrendous civil war in Syria grinds into its fourth year, leaving unimaginable devastation in its wake. Innocent Syrians find themselves defenceless against a sociopathic government, foreign militants and even their own neighbours. Millions have been tormented by chemical attacks, shootings, and kidnappings. It has been described as the largest human crisis of our generation. According to the United Nations, out of a population of 21.4 million people, 9.3 million are in need of assistance. Already, 2.6 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

Last week, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees met with Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander as part of a tour aimed at convincing international partners to help resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees, in addition to the 30,000 the UN asked countries to accept last year. The Canadian government is considering the latest UN request.

Last summer, our government committed to taking in a meagre 1,300 Syrian refugees, which consisted of 1,100 private sponsorships, and only 200 government sponsored refugees. If that’s not mean-spirited enough, until now, no more than 10 have actually arrived in Canada.

Frankly, Canada’s response to date to the humanitarian crisis in Syria can best be described as stingy and cold-hearted, and stands in sharp contrast to the warm welcome offered to the 40,000 Central Europeans almost 60 years ago. To me, it is a shameful rejoinder to a plea for hope and charity. It says much about the Canadian ethos today. One has to wonder what has changed in Canada since the 1950’s. Have we become poorer? Perhaps not materially, but certainly in spirit.

*Photo from Ottawa Citizen, May 29, 2014

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6 Responses to “Really the Best We Can Do?”

  • On June 11th, 2014, samer hamdan said ...

    i hope that Canadian government reconsider having some of us as refugee we can bring whats lift of money with us and start some kind of business and have some Canadians to work with us .

    samer hamdan

  • On June 17th, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    I appreciate this voice as world left the Syrian crises behind

  • On June 17th, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    When you consider the number of homegrown ‘jihadists’ being exported of recent from the UK, Canada, US and other western countries to the Middle East, you will not be so shocked as to Canada’s apparently ‘cold-hearted’ attitude to Syrian refugees…

  • On August 17th, 2014, Dana said ...

    Canada is sometime naive regarding Refugee program. Many people are accepted in Canada under this program without a good / real reazon. There are oportunists who have the knowledge and the resurses to lie the canadien authorities. These errors made by canadien gouverment are paid by tax payers and the sociaety suffers. Good prople cannot come in Canada, but all kind of junk is comming in making canadian unhappy. Not everybody is a genue refugee. Canada, be more careful!

  • On September 2nd, 2014, Anonymous said ...

    In 1979-1980, Canada admitted 60,000 boat people. The Conservative government of the day, under Joe Clark as prime minister, offered one-to-one matching of government sponsorships to each refugee privately sponsored. He did not specify an upper limit. Pierre Trudeau forced an election (on completely unrelated grounds of course) and returned to office just in time to cancel this program – but the commitment to private sponsors was honoured, and tens of thousands of people were resettled in Canada under its auspices. Which as I well recall, strained newcomer services to a breaking point and left Chinatown in turmoil for some years.

  • On April 11th, 2015, Anonymous said ...

    Unlike many former immigrants-middle eastern people do not want to assimilate into Canadian culture. They want Canadians to adopt their customs. I have been watching Europe and the United States. Muslims are pressing hard for Sharia law , especially on college campuses. You have to decide. Do Canadians want to maintain their national identity/character or not.

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