Canada's Keep-Them-Out Immigration Policy

By Denton, Tom | Winnipeg Free Press, September 8, 2015 | Go to article overview

Canada's Keep-Them-Out Immigration Policy


Denton, Tom, Winnipeg Free Press


Conservative Leader Stephen Harper began this election campaign by describing the issues as the economy and security. Other party leaders took his bait.

And so it has been through the early weeks. It has played well to the insularity of Canadians easily persuaded to be concerned for their financial well-being and their safety.

The photo of one three-year-old refugee boy, dead on a beach with the Mediterranean lapping at his sad little body, has created a tidal wave that is threatening to sink the usual, and maybe even lift all party boats to a higher level of debate.

Perhaps there is now room to consider matters of morality, of conscience, of compassion and simple decency, of humanity's interconnectedness, and the role Canada should play once again -- as it did years ago.

This time, it is immigration and refugee policy that is both the Achilles heel of the Harper government and the litmus test of its attitude. But the same thing can be said of the NDP, and of the Liberals whose "labour market strategy" the Tories inherited and is the shallow bedrock of policy today.

The refugee crisis has global impact even though its immediate effect is upon Europe. Refugees are pouring in by the tens of thousands from the Middle East and from Africa. Harper, like British Prime Minister David Cameron, dwells on the need to address the root causes.

No wise person can deny the importance of attacking the root. But in the face of screaming human tragedy now, the Harper-Cameron stance is not even rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; it's only talking about it. The need is now. The image of that little dead boy, Alan Kurdi, confirms it.

Thus it becomes a numbers game and a confusing one, a bidding contest among party leaders. How many Syrians will Canada take, has it taken? Or other refugees, too?

There are, however, some fundamental issues.

There are 24,000 refugees already privately sponsored by Canadians who have been waiting for years to get here. The typical wait time is four or five years. It can be longer. People living at risk must somehow survive while Canada's immigration mills grind slowly.

Even Syrians marked for priority processing must wait, despite their life-threatening situations. …

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