Canada shouldn't 'overstate' risk of accepting Syrian refugees: War Child Canada founder
Potential threats to public security shouldn’t be “overstated” as Canada considers accepting thousands more Syrian refugees to resettle here, the founder of War Child Canada says.
The Canadian government is equipped with sufficient vetting processes to help weed out possible risks, Samantha Nutt told CTV’s Power Play.
“We have to have proper mechanisms in place, but we shouldn’t have a lack of confidence when it comes to the competencies and capacities of our security agencies. This is what they are for,” Nutt said in a Thursday interview.
“It is possible to examine that security risk and still process these refugee claimants in a responsible and expedited fashion.”
The comments come two days after Conservative Leader Stephen Harper pledged to “screen every potential refugee carefully.”
"We cannot open the floodgates and airlift tens of thousands of refugees out of a terrorist war zone without proper process. That is too great a risk for Canada," Harper said in a Tuesday question-and-answer session on Facebook.
He has since seemed to recast his message, saying Thursday that the Conservatives will take “concrete steps to expedite the process” of refugee resettlement to Canada “in the very near future.”
Nutt, whose organization works on the ground in Syria, says the processing time differs depending on the type of refugees, with lower-risk groups getting quick approvals.
“It doesn’t take very long to clear a female-headed household with young children under the age of 10, in terms of the security risk that they may pose,” she said.
Each party has offered its own number of Syrian refugees they think Canada should accept. The NDP says Ottawa should bring in 46,000 government-sponsored refugees by 2019, including 10,000 refugees by the end of this year. The Conservatives have committed to admitting 11,300 people by the end of 2018, while the Liberals say Canada should accept 25,000 refugees before next year.
Canada has accepted about 2,500 Syrian refugees since 2013.
Nutt suggests that these figures are a fraction of the big picture.
“We’re looking at a crisis in Syria alone where we have four million refugees. So even if we take 10,000 or 20,000, there are still 3,980,000 that are in need of assistance,” she said.
Canadians need to continue to support Syria through donations, which have dried up over the last few years, Nutt said.
“We haven’t been paying as much attention over the last four years. Donor funds have been declining to Syrian refugees and neighbouring countries,” she said.
It is one thing to accept more Syrian refugees, but another to ensure that they have proper resources to start new lives once they arrive in Canada, Nutt said.
“And we have seen examples of where Canada has fallen down in that,” she said, pointing to the Somali diaspora of the 1990s. “The lack of resources and the lack of attention that was paid to those families once they arrived here certainly complicated things.”