Federal parties squabble while Syrian refugees drown
The lifeless body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi was found on Sept. 2, when it washed onto a Turkish beach. His family were Syrian refugees, attempting a harrowing escape from their war-torn home in Kobane. His brother Ghalib and his mother Rehanna also died at sea, leaving a grieving father as the sole survivor of the family.
Photos of Alan rapidly circulated, dominating headlines the world over. The reverberations of this child’s death were also felt in Canada, where Immigration Minister Chris Alexander faced public outcry and condemnation. This graphic image has jolted Canadians from complacency on the Syrian refugee crisis, with many demanding immediate action.
Canada must act now to change policy and accept more Syrian refugees. As a country with relative peace and prosperity, a fairly stable economy, and enough space and resources to share, Canada certainly has the capacity to take in more refugees.
In 1956, Canada accepted 37,000 refugees from Hungary, reports the Canadian Council for Refugees. According to the government’s own statistics, Canada accepted 60,245 people fleeing Vietnam between 1978 and 1982. Then between 1991 and 1993, Canada accepted 137,000 refugees in the wake of the brutal wars in the former Yugoslavia.
We have done it before, and there is no reason we cannot do it again.
Canadians have the desire to take in more refugees. Over the Labour Day weekend, Canadians gathered in protests across the country, chanting “refugees welcome.”
In the days since that dramatic photo of Alan was published, the CBC reported that the top Google search in Canada pertaining to the crisis was “How to sponsor a Syrian?” There has been an outpouring of public grief and frustration over the lack of governmental response both on social media and in the mainstream press.
The NDP has suggested they would accept 10,000 government-sponsored refugees from Syria in the next year and 65,000 over the next five years, while the Conservatives say they would resettle 10,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq over three years. The Liberal Party is in the middle, saying they would immediately resettle 25,000 refugees from Syria.
This is still grossly inadequate for the three million refugees that have fled Syria and the 6.5 million who have been internally displaced. Canada’s political parties must stop squabbling and begin to truly address the scale of this crisis.
Canada is a country of immigrants and refugees. The experience of fleeing violence is something these Syrian refugees share with many Canadians. Turning our backs on Syrian refugees would be a rejection of our own history. These memories must serve as a call to embody the best we are capable of being: an open, diverse, and welcoming society to those who need it the most.