The Saanich News asked the candidates in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke the question: What should Canada’s role be in dealing with international refugees?
Shari Lukens – Conservative
The Government of Canada acts quickly and appropriately to requests for assistance from countries facing disasters, conflicts, or acute food insecurity.
Canada’s response is the result of close co-operation among Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development humanitarian officers, Canadians in the field, representatives of other governments and international and Canadian humanitarian partners, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations World Food Programme.
In response to the Syria crisis, Canada has agreed to resettle 11,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017 and 23,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of 2015. Canada has also committed to resettle 5,000 refugees who are now in Turkey by 2018. As of Sept. 1, 2015, more than 3,500 refugees from Syria and the region have been admitted to Canada.
Since January 2012, Canada has committed $503.5 million in international humanitarian assistance funding in response to the Syria crisis. The recently created Syria Emergency Relief Fund will match every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of the conflict, up to $100 million, until Dec. 31.
Randall Garrison – NDP
The NDP is committed to get more Syrian refugees to Canada. We can begin by getting 10,000 Syrian refugees out of harm’s way and to Canada by the end of the year. The NDP has committed to work with the government to get those 10,000 government-sponsored refugees out of harm’s way and on the way to Canada by the end of this year through appointing a Syrian refugee co-ordinator, pulling resources from various departments including Foreign Affairs, Citizenship and Immigration and other departments.
We should also increase the presence of Canada’s diplomatic and immigration officials in the region to accelerate processing of refugees. Canada can work with Turkey and other affected countries to remove bureaucratic obstacles to resettlement and end Canada’s policy of discrimination, treating all refugees equally. An NDP government will fast-track private sponsorship, with no cap on numbers, to bring as many people as possible to Canada. We will also increase Canada’s contributions to humanitarian assistance agencies, including the UNHCR, based on the needs on the ground and help co-ordinate the response of the international community to the Syrian refugee crisis.
David Merner – Liberals
The Harper Conservatives have demonstrated astounding incompetence in their handling of the Syrian refugee crisis. We have a proud tradition in Canada as an open, generous country that has integrated refugees into our economy and society with great success. Canada should not stand idly by as families flee for their lives – let’s cut through the Conservative government’s bureaucratic red tape around refugees, without reducing screening standards.
Here’s how. A Liberal government will:
Expand Canada’s intake to 25,000 refugees from Syria this year through immediate, direct sponsorship by the Government of Canada. We will also work with private sponsors to take in even more.
Invest an additional $100 million this fiscal year to increase – without reducing standards – refugee processing rates, as well as the sponsorship and settlement services capacity in Canada.
Provide an immediate $100 million contribution to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to support the critical relief activities in Syria and the surrounding area.
Frances Litman – Green Party
Canada should be among the world leaders in accepting international refugees. For example, we believe that Canada should be accepting up to 40,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years.
We can do more to help. We should be using the Canadian Armed Forces to help bring Syrian refugees to Canada by the most efficient means possible, and those with family in Canada should be allowed immediate entry to complete their processing in safety.