This post is intended for those who are under the misconception that the Canadian government should not allow refugees into this country until it can first provide jobs, food and housing for the poverty-stricken souls already living here.
Let’s get something straight once and for all…The Canadian government does not bring refugees into this country willy-nilly and on a political whim. Forget ISIS and the current influx of Syrian refugees for a moment…
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that almost 960,000 refugees are currently in need of resettlement in a third country. These are refugees who, according to the UNHCR, can neither return to their country of origin nor integrate into their country of first asylum.
Together, the international community has committed to resettle around 80,000 refugees each year. Historically, Canada has resettled approximately 10% of this total; the government’s current goal is to resettle between 8% and 12%. In 2010, the government committed to increase the number of refugees resettled each year from abroad by 20% (2,500 people). For 2015 and before Justin Trudeau’s overly ambitious goal of 25,000 by the end of the year (since realistically downgraded to 10,000), the government had agreed to accept up to 14,500 resettled refugees, out of a total of 285,000 new immigrants.
Canada admits refugees for resettlement on a humanitarian basis. Resettlement also provides a way for Canada to alleviate the burden for host countries and share the responsibility for displaced persons. In addition to commitments to resettle refugees, Canada has international obligations to those who come to Canada on their own and are found to be in need of protection (refugee claimants or asylum seekers).
In order to be eligible for resettlement in Canada as a refugee, a person must meet the criteria of the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees: he or she must have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Further, the person must be outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence and not able to find protection there.
In addition, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations stipulate that those outside their country who are “seriously and personally affected by civil war, armed conflict or massive violation of human rights” are eligible for refugee resettlement. The regulations also state that the applicant must be without a reasonable prospect, within a reasonable period, of a durable solution in a country other than Canada. Finally, the applicant must normally show potential to become successfully established and must meet admissibility criteria related to medical condition and security screening.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) visa officers stationed overseas generally determine if an individual is eligible for resettlement and admissible to Canada. Some refugees are referred to CIC for consideration by a designated referral organization (primarily the UNHCR), while others are referred by private sponsors. Applications are generally considered individually, except where the mass movement of refugees (i.e., as a result of conflicts or generalized violence) has caused the UNHCR to declare a group “prima facie” refugees.
Resettled refugees come to Canada in the following ways:
-- through the federal Government-Assisted Refugee (GAR) Program (which includes the Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program);
-- with the assistance of civil society groups through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program; or
-- through the Blended Visa Office–Referred Program, which combines government and private support.
Bigots can rant and rave all they want about closing our borders but, simply stated, Canada is committed to accepting a certain number of immigrants each year. There is no getting around it. Ideally, we are a humanitarian country, prepared to be our brother’s keeper when crisis situations arise in the world community. That is not to say, however, that immigration has to be at the expense of those already living at the poverty level in Canada.
As private citizens, we all have a responsibility. The onus is on us, the Canadian public, to provide for the needy among us -- not the government with its humanitarian commitment to the United Nations and limitations in being all things to all people with our tax dollars. Our individual response to the poor, hungry, hurting, and destitute is clear.
Conscience and compassion only lead to one conclusion…we must help wherever we can! Together we can be part of the solution. We must educate ourselves about the plight of the poor, what life is like for one-third of the world’s population, and how socio-economic and political forces impact the quality of life in different parts of the world and within our own Canadian borders. We should put real donations where our critical mouth is by being morally supportive, contributing to community food banks and organized outreach programs. If there is no "help the needy" initiative where you live -- then start one! Our actions speak far louder than our (negative) words.
Poverty is by no means exclusive to Canada where we have an unquestioned affordable housing issue that only increases with each passing year...We must understand that the problem is widespread across the globe and will never be completely eradicated. An estimated 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. There is no denying that such poverty assaults human dignity and robs people of their human potential. Fortunately, poverty is a disease with a cure. There are countless stories of poor persons and committed communities rising above crushing poverty. The mission for those of us of good will is to work with the poor and victims of circumstance to achieve greater economic opportunity. Local councils, churches and service clubs are the natural starting points.
Continually taking our government(s) to task and beating them up for humanitarian action on the world’s stage, gets us nowhere. What does get us some place is when government and the public (researchers, policymakers, social entrepreneurs, nonprofit development groups, microfinance institutions, corporations, and philanthropists) work together to provide necessary sustenance for our homeless, unemployed and hungry brothers and sisters. It is all about taking action by sharing resources and some of our bounty, alas -- inevitably more of our tax dollars.
Let’s not turn our individual backs and leave solutions entirely to the government which we are so fond of criticizing at the least provocation. We can be part of the overall solution if we are true to our Christian teachings and not conveniently selective with our good works, as is so often the case.
Perhaps this is the perfect time and place to review the Good Samaritan parable as told in Luke 10;29-37.