Sunday, September 13, 2015

Don't let the refugees down

Yeah, it's been a while. But I had to take to my keyboard today because of the refugee crisis that is swamping Europe - since many of them may be headed Canada's way. And I never thought, a month into the election, that it would become a debating point, but here we are.

I have an interest in this because my father and his brother, my uncle, came to Canada as refugees - in fact, fifty years ago this year. Having defected from the former Yugoslavia, they were lucky to have the choice of several countries to go to. They rejected a couple of South American countries because of their lousy currencies. Australia offered an instant ticket out of Italy where the refugee camp was, but my Dad and uncle told me that despite the country's large ex-pat community, they were told they would have had to live in the Outback for a couple of years; they knew what that was and thought No Way. The US wanted to make them wait a year before they got their green cards. Canada - just three months. That was their choice, and I'm glad they made it their choice.

Unfortunately, a lot of migrants fleeing the wars in Iraq and Syria don't have the luxury of a choice, or time. Notwithstanding any "safe third country" agreement that the EU states have amongst themselves, the refugees want to head to the wealthiest and most generous member states - Germany, France, Sweden, and Finland.

We don't need any more tragedies like the one with the cargo truck that had several dozen dead bodies in them. But there is no question we need to step up to the plate.

As I've mentioned before, Canada is quite unique among federal states in that immigration is shared between the federal and sub-national governments. (There may be a couple of others, but that's the only one I'm aware of.) Not only can provinces nominate their own regular status migrants (those with turnkey job skills), they also have a major say in how to settle refugees. (Something many states in America would only be glad to have, if only to spread migrants across the country rather than in specific regions.)

I've heard all sorts of numbers being bandied about. Ten thousand, fifty, a hundred. I personally think we should go for the higher end of the band, maybe even higher than that. We're way past the point where we once said of some ethnic groups that "one is too many". We have the resources to settle them. Let's do so.

It was suggested this past week that we should screen all potential refugees. That's a given, but in a rush like we're experiencing right now it's hard to say who is who. But that doesn't mean that one bad apple should spoil the whole bunch. Besides, do you think the originating countries, or ISIS for that matter, will provide a background check to federal and provincial immigration authorities? Exactly, they won't.

But I do have the worry about creeping Nativism. This is a perennial problem. But given that nearly all of the incoming population are Muslims, I fear a huge backlash. ("They're taking our jobs; they're using our social programs; they don't have to learn English / French, etc.) Migrants don't get a free ride. They'll have to pay taxes, especially income taxes - and that will help with our often shaky finances. And they're anything but lazy. They want to work, and there are TONS of jobs just waiting to be filled here.

From a crisis can come an opportunity. This country gave my family, and so many other families, a chance. It's time to step up again. We're better together, having all sorts of people here makes us a better society, and that's all there is to it. I'll leave it up to the provinces to figure out the numbers they're each going to absorb. But it's time, and making it a political football is simply unacceptable. Surely the three leaders can come to common ground on this then leave the rest of the campaign to other issues that matter.

But maybe that's too much to ask for.

No comments: