Canadian refugee ‘model’ isn’t exportable

By ANGELO PERSICHILLI (THE HILL TIMES)

PUBLISHED Sept. 26, 2016

TORONTO—Immigration Minister John McCallum says the “Canadian model” to deal with refugees could be adopted elsewhere to solve problems in other countries. In fact, last week the minister said that “at least 13 countries have expressed an interest in this. That could be one part of the solution for the world at large.”

I wish that it could be the Pollyanna for the tragedy that has hit Europe and the Middle East for years. Unfortunately, I believe the aspirations of our minister, while generous and made with the best of intentions, are unrealistic.

Terrorism and refugees are problems involving the entire world, but the intensity of that involvement changes dramatically from one country to another. We can safely say that Europe and United States are the areas where the problems are felt the most, and countries like Canada are not major players in terms of providing solutions.

I don’t know what countries McCallum is talking about that have expressed an interest in adopting the Canadian approach to refugees. I believe, however, that they should know a few details.

First, the Canadian “model” is not a new or a revolutionary plan to solve the problem. It is only a decision to increase the number of refugees to arrive in Canada and rush their arrival.

Second, we are talking about a few thousand refugees while the problem involves millions of people flooding monthly all over Europe to escape a genocide.

Third, Canada has no capacity to deal with a significant increase of new arrivals. Even community, humanitarian, and social organizations warned Ottawa that we didn’t even have the sufficient infrastructures to handle the arrival of a few thousand more refugees, never mind hundreds of thousands like in Europe.

Fourth, to speed up the system and equip the immigration system to deal with an increased volume of refugees, we need more people and more money. Unfortunately, there are fewer people available in the ministry today than before. Shuffling personnel to deal with the increased number of refugees, especially at a time when the government also wants to increase the number of new immigrants of other types to Canada, doesn’t add up.

  I acknowledge the statements from McCallum that by November he will give the details. I hope that the announcement includes more funds for the infrastructure, more funds to hire people, and clearer directives to make sure that the increase of the numbers and the speed to process the new potential Canadians will be done in an orderly manner. The “model’” adopted last winter, disrupting entire departments by shuffling people to deal with the new refugees in time for a photo op at the airport, doesn’t cut it.

As for the adoption of the “Canadian model” for solving the world refugees’ problem, that’s an overstatement that can be of no interest in Europe. It is like suggesting a tea party in the family room to host an after-party for thousands of people attending a Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre.

In Europe, the problem is not a lack of willingness to host refugees; in fact, they are already hosting millions. The problem is in the numbers, and those numbers are out of our reach.

As for the fight against terrorism, we are neither a primary target, nor those with a plan to fight it. We are against the bombing, but we are helping those that bomb. We don’t want to send our troops to fight terrorists, but we support the countries that do.

We are like the kids’ table at a family dinner. Before we can sit with the adults, we need a vision, a strategy, and plan to implement it. At the present time we only have a vision and a pilot project based on an election promise.

This government is not even a year old and it probably requires more time before moving from a feel-good approach to a do-good approach.

The speech delivered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations, filled with aspirations, good intentions, and platitudes might make us all feel happier, but not safer.

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