Canadian Syrian Refugee Policy
At a conference held earlier this week in Geneva by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees the appeal was made to Canada and other western nations to help more with Syrian refugees. Canada has been involved in the re-settlement of over 700 Syrian refugees. The government is struggling to meet an earlier commitment from July 2013 to settle 1300 by the end of the year. The controversy is that sources close to the discussions on Syrian refugees say that Canada is only accepting refugees from Syrian religious minorities.
Refugee advocacy groups have been asking Canada to accept up to 10,000 Syrian refugees within the next 2 years meanwhile the UN is in desperate need of aid as the civil war in Syria intensifies.
In Fridays question period in parliament both parties raised the question of whether or not the Canadian government was preferential to a certain group of Syrian refugees. The parliamentary secretary to minister of immigration offered the response, “To suggest that we are only going to focus on the one group of people is categorically false,” he said. “We have seen countless examples in recent years of people being persecuted for their religious beliefs. We will prioritize persecuted ethnic and religious minorities … those at deu8monstrated risk, and we will make no apologies for that.”
The Canadian Council for refuges reacted to these allegations on Friday with a news release. Loly Rico, the group’s president said, “It is completely unacceptable and in fact irresponsible to discriminate against refugees on the basis of religion, refugees must be selected for resettlement according to need.”
This is a challenging issue because some religious groups face more adversity in Syria than others, so the question is raised whether these groups have more of a need to immigrate than other groups. With all the negative media and problems with terrorism in Syria involving Muslims one has to wonder if the Canadian government is hesitating to immigrate refugees of Muslim descent in fear of potential radical views.
It has been months since Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that he would make an announcement about a commitment to take in further Syrian refugees in the near future. In this time there has still been massive unrest in Syria so the question of how committed Canada is to the crisis is still up in the air.
This can be related to the concept presented by Ninian Smart called “the human phenomenological environment” because Canada is taking into account the social implications of a religion and what it could mean to accept them and also the individual experience of individuals within the religion.