All-leader meeting needed to reach consensus on migrant crisis: Trudeau
Published Sunday, September 6, 2015 11:08AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 6, 2015 12:17PM EDT
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is calling on the federal party leaders to put politics aside and hold an unprecedented meeting to reach a Canadians consensus on the Syrian refugee crisis.
Trudeau also said he would support sending Canadian military planes with security and immigration officials to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to airlift Syrian refugees out of the region, as it did in 1979 with the Vietnamese boat people.
Speaking to CTV’s Question Period, the Liberal leader said it’s time for the party leaders to meet and craft an improved Canadian response.
“We’re not doing enough. I think everyone can agree that we need to do more,” said Trudeau. “I think it goes to the kind of country we are. We are a country that has successfully welcomed in people in the past.”
And he thinks the Canadian public would support airlifting Syrian refugees out of the region.
“I think we definitely need to start putting people on the ground to process directly,” said Trudeau. “We should be doing that more often with the kinds of case workers that have been very, very effective for Canada in years past.”
NDP senior campaign advisor Brad Lavigne said Leader Tom Mulcair would be open to sitting down with the other leaders to discuss a response to the crisis. Summa Strategies’ Michele Austin skirted the question when asked if the Conservatives would also agree to a meeting.
The focus on the campaign trail shifted from the economy to the refugee crisis this week, after a photo of a drowned Syrian boy, three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose aunt lives in B.C., surfaced on the internet and captivated the world.
The government came under fire for its response to the refugee crisis, with both the opposition leaders calling on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to do more. In the past three years, the Conservative government has accepted 2,300 Syrian refugees, with plans to accept 10,000 more over three years.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander told Question Period he was “very proud” of Canada’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. He did not, however, entertain the idea of sending Canadian officials to the region to help expedite applications on the ground, like it did in 1979 in Vietnam.
“1979 is not 2015. We operate in different ways. We have different requirements. We have to go through screening processes that we are obliged under our immigration laws to implement.”
“Terrorism was a not a phenomenon there (Vietnam),” Alexander added. “We’ve got to recognize that circumstances change.”
Alexander said “resettlement is not a solution to this crisis.” In addition to humanitarian needs, he said the crisis response requires action on a much larger scale, including the ongoing military mission against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, which Canada is a part of. ISIS’ presence in the region has forced many Syrians to take refuge in surrounding countries.
“This is a very bad crisis but it could get incomparably worse were it not for the military effort now underway to try and prevent these jihadist groups from taking over entire countries.”
Alexander also used the opportunity to take a jab at Mulcair’s commitment to pull Canadian troops out of the ISIS mission if elected, saying that would condemn millions more to face the “barbarism of ISIS.”
On Saturday, the NDP announced its commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year, and increase the number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees by 9,000 annually for the following four years. They also called for the appointment of a Syrian refugee coordinator to manage the resources of government departments overseeing refugee applications, travel to Canada and resettlement.
“We're simply saying, let's work together to make a difference here. And that's why we've been very clear that this is not a partisan issue, and that this is about really doing what Canadians expect us to do,” NDP candidate Paul Dewar said at news conference in Ottawa.
The Liberals have committed to resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees in “as rapid fashion as possible” if elected. That would cost $100 million, according to Trudeau.