Federal government must return country to its humanitarian roots argues reporter.

Federal government must return country to its humanitarian roots argues reporter.

Canada failing refugees in time of crisis

Federal government must return country to its humanitarian roots.

All it takes is a little research to realize just how devastating the Syrian crisis has been to millions of innocent people.

The United Nations Agency for Refugees and other non-governmental organizations suggest that there are about 3.2 million Syrian refugees worldwide, with an estimated 1.6 million of those being children.

To put that into a local perspective, there are nearly 20 times more Syrian refugees that are children than there are people living in Nanaimo.

Last summer, the federal government promised that Canada would take in 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014. However, it was recently revealed by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander that there have only been 457 Syrian refugees accepted into the country. That’s less than half of the total pledged. The report goes on to say that Canada has earmarked more than $600 million for humanitarian aid and security for the Syrian crisis.

The federal government’s approach to the entire Syrian situation is vastly disappointing. Instead of accepting refugees and sending people to assist with efforts on the ground, Canada has become engaged in a six-month military mission in the Middle East, which is anticipated to cost taxpayers in the ballpark of $90 million, according to the Ottawa Citizen. It is worth noting that the cost of flying a single CF-18 fighter jet for one hour is approximately $19,600.

That’s money that could be used to bring Syrian refugees to Canada and create integration programs, which, in turn, would mean the creation of long-term local jobs.

In stark contrast to Canada, Germany, the second largest recipient of immigrants in the world, has pledged to resettle more than 25,000 Syrian refugees. In fact, since 2011, Germany has accepted 48,000 asylum applications from Syria. The country has also established number of refugee centres that provide food, language courses and transition services and is an excellent employer within the local economy.

There was a time when Canada was a leader in providing humanitarian aid to nations in need. Whether it was through NATO or the United Nations, Canada would step up to the plate. That’s all but forgotten with the current government, which seems more intent on engaging Canada in combative military action than providing humanitarian support.

There will be people who say the Syrian refugee crisis isn’t Canada’s problem. However, as a founding member of the United Nations and as a nation that prides itself on immigration, inclusion and cultural diversity, it is our humanitarian duty to assist these refugees. Canada would be better off following the German model, as it would not only provide meaningful jobs for Canadians, but it would also give people with absolutely nothing a shot at everything.

In fact, one doesn’t need to look far to find a refugee success story in Canada. In 1968, Michaëlle Jean arrived in Canada after fleeing Haiti. After settling in Quebec, she would go on to become an award-winning journalist and in 2005 she was appointed the 27th governor general in Canadian history, a position she held until 2010.

If that isn’t reason enough to accept any number of the millions of refugees then I don’t know what is.

arts@nanaimobulletin.comTwitter: @npescod

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