Image: Flickr/Alex Guibord

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The Claim: Chris Alexander said Canada is “a model of humanitarian action.” Is it?

Chris Alexander, speaking in his role as Immigration Minister, told Rosemary Barton that Canada is “a model of humanitarian action” and that the number of refugees we are accepting is going up dramatically. He would not say how many Syrian refugees were accepted in 2015.

This morning, news broke that the family of the dead toddler who washed up on a beach in Turkey had their refugee claim rejected by Canada. Alexander has suspended his election campaign.

Harper defended his government’s record and Alexander admitted that this humanitarian crisis, the most significant since the Second World War, has been going on for two years. So: what have they done to respond?

More than four million refugees have fled Syria since 2011. 350,000 refugees have come to Europe this year alone and that number is expected to rise to 800,000 before the year is over.

In 2013, Canada accepted 1,063 Syrian refugees. The Conservatives insisted that refugees be prioritized based on religious or ethnic grounds, a policy that many have called discriminatory. The government failed to meet their commitment to accept 1,300 refugees in 2014. In January 2015, Alexander promised that Canada would accept 3,300 Syrian refugees per year for three years. Between January 1 and June 10, 2014, only 58 private sponsorship applications had been approved.

The Conservatives have drastically changed how Canada accepts refugees. They have relied more on private sponsorships than government sponsorships, and the bureaucratic measures that have been added to the application process are slowing the speed with which claimants are accepted. Under the Conservatives, in 2014 Canada fell from fifth place to 16th in the list of top refugee-receiving countries.

The Harper Conservatives tried to eliminate access to healthcare for refugees, they placed billboards in countries warning people to not seek asylum in Canada, and border agents have been placed in airports around the world to stop refugees from boarding planes to Canada. Canada doesn’t even accept refugees who arrive from our principle border: an agreement signed in 2004 allows Canada to turn all refugee claimants from the U.S. back to the U.S.

Since the Conservatives took office, 87,000 migrants have been jailed in Canada as they waited to be processed, including nearly 1,000 children. Canada is the only Western country that jails migrants in the same facilities as people serving criminal sentences.

To deflect from these numbers, Harper and Alexander have preferred to comment about they say is the root problem of the migrant crisis: ISIS. Refugees are fleeing a number for a number of reasons: military action against ISIS by the U.S.-led coalition, the civil war in Syria, and Turkey’s bombing of Kurdish areas. 

Canada has already been involved in two bombing campaigns in September. 

The former Minister of National Defense Jason Kenney has denied reports of casualties caused by the coalition strikes.



Image: Flickr/Alex Guibord

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Nora Loreto

Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is the author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement and is the editor of the Canadian Association...