© JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN
Syrian native Luba Kaboush, who lives in Charlottetown, says the process is "too slow'' in getting four of her family members to P.E.I. through private sponsorship. The Syrian refugee crisis has been described as the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
The photo of the little boy whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach last week changed the course of history as the world recoiled in horror to the plight of refugees pouring out of Syria. The toddler, along with a young brother and their mother, drowned when their craft foundered trying to leave Turkey for a Greek island and then onward to Canada – seeking peace and a chance to start a new life - far away from the endless bombings and killings in their homeland.
Like Maitland MacIsaac of Charlottetown, who eloquently expressed his reaction in a commentary this week, many people broke down and wept when they saw that photo of the dead toddler on the beach. Many governments have reacted with compassion to the photos – Germany, Austria, England and Australia, to name a few. Sadly, Canada is not one of them.
Until last week, many countries had ignored or were immune to the growing tragedy engulfing the Middle East as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the region for Western Europe and points beyond. Unfortunately, one of those points beyond isn’t Canada.
The man who can change that unfortunate reality is in P.E.I. today. When Conservative supporters crowd into campaign venues in Malpeque and Charlottetown, they could use the opportunity to tell the PM that Canada should do more for these refugees; that there isn’t a moment to spare to save more lives. We don’t have time for lengthy processing, detailed sponsorships and neat and tidy paperwork. For many, it’s an immediate life and death situation.
Today, the PM must be reminded that various P.E.I. groups, churches and families have been trying for many months to sponsor refugees from Iraq and Syria. They have encountered endless red tape and bureaucratic roadblocks.
Mr. Harper has ruled out airlifts from the Syrian exodus and seemed obsessed with extensive and lengthy security clearances. Is he suggesting that people risking everything to escape war zones are potential Islamic terrorists, instead of potential, valuable new citizens in a country where provinces are ready to welcome them?
A packed meeting in Sydney, Cape Breton, on Tuesday night saw a big crowd anxious to welcome refugees, which would help solve the island’s declining population problem. The Green Party made pleas for an immediate airlift of those in need. Opposition leaders have called for national party leaders to meet and reach some consensus on what to do. Mayors, premiers, civil leaders and various groups across Canada are all anxious to help.
There is a rally this evening at historic Province House in Charlottetown in support of accommodating more refugees and a candlelight vigil for innocent victims like Alan Kurdi. Wednesday, Premier Wade MacLauchlan signalled that the P.E. I. government is prepared to work with federal partners to accept an increase in refugees moving to the province.
A conference call has been arranged for today with the provincial and territorial ministers in charge of immigration in order to talk about the growing refugee crisis.
There is a growing national will to open our doors and our hearts to these refugees.
The response from the Canadian government to last week’s tragedy was to defend its bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. The government tells us that bombing is defeating ISIS and keeping Canada safe. Yet a CBC program last week outlined how dozens of innocent civilians have died from Canadian air strikes. The government might consider that perhaps it has become part of the problem. How does dropping bombs – mostly in Iraq - relieve the acute situation affecting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees?
We are in the middle of an election campaign where political expediency triumphs over expediting refugee claims. These refugees are risking everything to get to safety and Canada is offering little help.
The government appears more concerned with the campaign rather than compassion. It’s a sad chapter in our country’s history.