NDP, Liberals call for increased refugee settlement in Canada by year's end
Published Saturday, September 5, 2015 7:12AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 7, 2015 12:43PM EDT
The refugee crisis is dominating the weekend campaign trail, with the NDP and the Liberals urging the government to increase the number of refugees accepted to settle in Canada.
At separate news conferences on Saturday, both parties said it's time for all of the federal parties to put campaign politics aside and focus instead on helping those desperately fleeing Syria and Iraq.
"We have reached out to the government now, because we don't need to wait until October to start this work," NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar said in Ottawa.
Dewar said the parties should work together to immediately establish a Syrian refugee coordinator, who would oversee a multi-departmental effort to fast-track the government-sponsored refugees.
He also said that while fast-tracking refugees would be a good start, it is not enough.
According to Dewar, an NDP government would also do the following to address the crisis:
- Settle 9,000 government-sponsored refugees each year starting in 2016 for four years;
- Fast-track private sponsorship, with no limits or caps;
- Provide health care to the refugees.
Dewar said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has consulted with experts and refugee advocacy groups in crafting the plan.
He noted that the NDP plan is keeping in line with the numbers set by the UN, which has set Canada’s share of the global refugee total at 9,000 per year. Francois Crepeau, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, has called on the West to settle a million Syrian refugees over the next five years.
The proposed NDP plan would cost about $74 million for this year, he said. The costs would include expenses for visas, resettlement money, and health-care services. If elected, the plan to settle an additional 9,000 annually for the next four years would cost about $63.8 million per year, he said.
Liberals: Settle 25,000 refugees by 2016
Meanwhile, Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Marc Garneau and Ontario-based candidate Dr. Jane Philpott said the Liberals are proposing to settle 25,000 government-sponsored refugees in Canada by Jan. 1, 2016.
Noting that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau first proposed this number in March, Philpott said it is as "much the right thing to do then, as it is now."
To help facilitate the resettlement, the Liberals, if elected, will also commit to the following:
- $100 million to help with the costs of processing, sponsorship and settlement in Canada for the 2015-2016 fiscal year;
- $100 million to the UNHCR and the World Food Programme, to help provide essentials to refugees in camps across the Middle East;
- Ending the government practice of prioritizing certain ethnic and religious minorities from Syria.
Philpott said the Liberals also encourage Canadians to continue their generosity through private sponsorship.
"We have seen Canadians from coast to coast to coast calling for action from the federal government," she said. "We have an opportunity to significantly expand our refugee targets and give more victims of war a safe haven in Canada."
Philpott and Garneau said the Liberals are open to working with other parties, and agreed that a plan should be enacted before the Oct. 19 election.
"This is not a time for partisanship, this is a time for all Canadians to work together," Philpott said.
The proposed plans come as thousands of migrants continue to stream across European borders, hoping to escape the violence in Syria and Iraq.
It also comes days after a photo of a dead Syrian boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey caught the world's attention. The photo of Alan Kurdi, 3, quickly spread across Canada, and it was later discovered that the Kurdi family had hoped to settle here.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a statement Thursday that Canada has already resettled 22,000 refugees from Iraq, and 2,300 from Syria, after promising to bring 23,000 Iraqis and 11,300 Syrians over here over several years.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has said that if re-elected, the Tories would bring in 10,000 more refugees from the Middle East over the next four years.