“Our compassion and fairness are a source of great pride for Canadians”, proudly stated by Citizenship and Immigration of Canada on its refugee system.There is no doubt that Canada has been a leader in refugee resettlement programs. Its outstanding and effective protection for Vietnamese “boat people” after Vietnam war gained Canada great respect from global community, and ever since, Canada is known as the most “refugee-friendly” country in the world. However, the past glory does not reflect in the status quo of Canada’s Syrian refugee resettlement. When facing the largest humanitarian crisis in our generation with regards to Syria, a great leadership is not found in Canada. The immigration department does not live up to its promise of bringing in 1,300 Syrian refugees; on the other hand, Sweden announced they have welcomed 15,000 which exceeds the amount that Canada planned.That was such a disappointment to both the Canadian society and the Syrian refugees.
Why isn’t Canada leading the world this time? The problem is the insufficient support the private sponsors receive from Immigration offices, which put Canada’s asylum at a disadvantage position in the competition with other host countries. Canadian government relies on private sponsors to achieve its resettlement goal, but the restriction that it imposes on sponsor groups clearly did not help with the situation. As a critical part of the bridge that connects refugees and Canadian government, the number of sponsors is significantly shrinking due to the backlog of files the offices are encountering. The downsizing of the sponsor groups will certainly lead to less opportunity for refugees in the light of escaping the war-torn country and coming to Canada. What’s even worse is that the government failed to warn the sponsor groups of its big expectation, resulting in organizations that already committed to take in refugees from other counties having no spot left for the influx of Syrian refugees (Gazette).
The churches are not very pleased with government’s slow response. A recent survey shows that most religious groups are concerned about the long waiting period and the time to process the files after they are submitted, which can take up a year to two years. By contrast, Sweden has been very supportive and announced their new policies to fast track the refugee claims in order to save more lives. RatnaOmidvar of the Global Diversity and Migration Exchange commented, “Sweden’s commitment to refugees is remarkable, it is steadfast, it is admirable, it is outstanding…People look to you, not to Canada, as the moral guardians for the world”(Wagner). Some people may argue that Canada is taking a different approach to this issue. As Dana Wagner said, “a regional crisis needs a regional response.” Canada hasspent $630 million for humanitarian groups that are mostly based in the countries that share borders with Syria.
In that sense, Canada expected a lot more Syrians can be benefited from the direct and effective regional responses instead of waiting for the papers to be processed. However, Canada failed to realize that in most of the time, Syrians are not getting any better ways out in refugee camps because they are still trapped in war-zones and are seen as burdens to the host countries they fled to. The Turkey government labeled the refugees as “guests” who can only enjoy temporary protection;lack of housing, rapidly rising rents and unregistered Syrian businesses, all the problems that came along with influx of Syrians, irritated the local Turkish (Letsch). Imagine, you fled a place, which has no electricity, food or water but fear of being killed to a placewhere your family lives on odd jobs and small donations of citizens; the life may even be harsher, with the hostility you feel from the local community.“They react angrily. I am not comfortable here and if I could I would go somewhere else…I feel trapped”, said Abu Nour, after he was severely beaten by Turkish soldiers when he tried to cross the borders to enter Turkey (Letsch).
All these factors point out to a fact that pouring money on humanitarian aids instead of accepting more refugees does not seem to yield the results that Canada has expected. Are we still that compassionate, Canada? Not too long ago, in 2013, Canada responded to Typhoon Haiyan within 24 hours and promised to fast-track Filipino’s visa applications and 1,097 Filipinos were given residence permits within 6 months. In 2010, Canada fast-tracked 3,300 Haitian applications after a major earthquake in Haiti (Goodspeed). Canada is capable to welcome more than 1,300 refugees and fast-track the implications to rescue more suffering people, but it chose not to. No programs similar are provided for Syrian refugees.Instead, theapplication process is extremely frustrating for some desperate Syrian refugees.
If one missing address or telephone number is found on the application, the application will be returned to the applicant and after one and a half year waiting, the refugees are still hanging at the starting line, not even close to the finish line.As Immigration Minister Chris Alexander puts it, Canada has “to be careful in any part of the world where terrorist groups are operating”( …). Granted, there may be a few terrorists using the asylum system to enter Canada and create public panic and therefore security check is essential for society’s concerns, but to what extent we have to ignore the fact that a massive amount of Syrians are innocent people and victims of the terrorism. It is absurd that some tiny mistakes sometimes weigh over the life of a refugee and unacceptable to have double standard toward an ethnic group.