OTTAWA -- "The UN has asked us to bring in 9,000 refugees before Christmas; you won't do it. They've asked for 46,000 over the next four years, you won't do it." -- NDP Leader Tom Mulcair to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

During Thursday night's federal leaders' debate on the economy, a segment that was supposed to be about the impact of immigration levels suddenly veered into the Syrian refugee crisis and whether the current government should be doing more.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was attacked by both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. Mulcair accused Harper of ignoring a UN request that Canada resettle 9,000 refugees before Christmas and a further 46,000 over the next four years.

Has the UN made such a request?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of "no baloney" to "full of baloney" (complete methodology below).

This one earns a rating of full of baloney.


The process of resettling refugees is overseen by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Out of the millions of refugees created each year, only a specific number are prioritized to be permanently accepted by other countires.

Once that number is determined, the agency puts out a global call for help finding places to put them.

As it relates to the Syrian crisis, the UNHCR began seeking space for refugees from that conflict in 2013. They did not ask Canada to take in a certain amount, although according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press, they did ask that Syrians be given the 200 spaces Canada sets aside each year for emergency resettlement.

Beyond that, while there is some indirect lobbying, the UNHCR does not make direct demands. In 2014, they put out a call for 130,000 places for Syrians by the end of 2016. Nearly 30 countries have so far created just over 107,000 spots, including the 11,300 Canada has promised to take by the end of 2018.

That leaves 23,000 spaces unfilled.

The New Democrats say one of Mulcair's figures was drawn from comments made by Francois Crepeau, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, who in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian called on the West to resettle 1 million Syrian refugees over the next five years.

"We could collectively offer to resettle 1 million Syrians over the next five years. For a country like the UK, this would probably be around 14,000 Syrians a year for five years. For Canada, it would mean less than 9,000 a year for five years -- a drop in the bucket," he told the newspaper this spring.

Mulcair's suggestion that the UN asked for 46,000 over four years was explained by the party as a combination of their demand that 10,000 should be resettled by the end of this year, and additional 9,000 a year for the next four years as per Crepeau.


Crepeau, also a law professor at McGill University, has since increased the number of refugees he thinks ought to be resettled. In an email to The Canadian Press, he said he thinks intake should rise to 2 miillion over five years, which for Canada would mean less than 18,000 per year, a number he views as entirely manageable.

However, he notes he does not represent the United Nations.

"I'm an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to perform a pro bono mandate as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants," he said in an email to The Canadian Press.

"Whatever I say cannot be construed as the position of the UN and the UN can contradict me the next day. That said, the UN, and especially the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, hasn't contradicted me, yet, on any of my statements."


The United Nations has not asked Canada to take in any specific number of refugees now or over the next four years. For that reason, Mulcair's claim is full of baloney.


The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

No baloney -- the statement is completely accurate

A little baloney -- the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

Some baloney -- the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

A lot of baloney -- the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

Full of baloney -- the statement is completely inaccurate