'The enormity of the task is not lost on me': Minister on Afghan resettlement goal
On the heels of a modest prediction that it will take up to two years before Canada can fulfill its promise to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says political will is not the reason for the delay.
Speaking to CTV National News, Fraser says the government remains committed to its promise, but notes it faces unique challenges in Afghanistan and other countries where refugees have fled.
Here is what Fraser said regarding the effort to resettle 40,000 Afghanistan refugees:
CTV National News: There is an urgency to get people out of Afghanistan and Canada has promised to help those who served with Canada, those who are vulnerable. Why is it taking for long?
Fraser: It’s important that we reflect on the fact that there are people moving right now. We’ve got about 4,700 people resettled in Canada to date. Just last week, we saw the first chartered flight of privately sponsored refugees arrive in Canada at Pearson airport. By the end of this week an additional 520 will be arriving, and I expect that you’re going to see a more regular pace of arrivals going forward.
For the people that are in the country today, let’s remind ourselves that we’re dealing with a territory that has been seized by the Taliban – a listed terrorist entity by Canadian law. They are in no mood to do any favours to the government of Canada and if they were, I don’t think they’d be any good at it.
CTV National News: Have they been left behind? You’re talking about challenges that seem insurmountable and those left in Afghanistan feel as though they’ve been left behind.
Fraser: I’m very hopeful. But the enormity of the task is not lost on me. These are people that we want to help. I can tell you if it was a matter of political will, these people would be here yesterday. The bottleneck is really not the internal processing capacity of the government of Canada, its situational and environmental factors either on the ground in Afghanistan, capacity of partners in the region, or other kinds of logistical challenges along the way.
CTV National News: Forty-thousand people over two years is not the same as getting them out of danger now when their lives depend on it. What do you say to those people?
Fraser: We’re dealing with navigating a war zone in which we do not have a presence. And as soon as we have concrete information that we can share about the steps an individual person may take in the process, we’re going to communicate that with them. And in the meantime, we’re going to continue to work to see these arrivals, increase their pace, and have more people settled in our communities as soon as possible. We’ve made a commitment, and we’re going to make good on that commitment no matter what it takes. There’s an awful lot of people that have done a world of good for the Canadian Forces during our time in Afghanistan. There’s an awful lot of people that we’ve made a very public commitment to resettle in Canada. Canada is a nation that does not go back on its word.