OPINION – Every crisis calls for an immediate response

Commentary by Tom Henihan

Now that the government has fulfilled its target of bringing Syrian refugees to Canada the next level of vacuous, political dissent begins.
The government reached its target, providing refuge to 25,000 people in difficult or abject circumstances, bringing them to a secure and sustainable situation from which they can eventually become established and move on with their lives.
Of course, it is the mission of politicians in opposition to voice an opposing opinion whether there are any real or reasonable grounds for dissent.
Conservative immigration and refugee critic Michelle Rempel, typical of a politician in search of a sound bite, was grasping at straws to find something to grumble about now that the government had reached its target.
Speaking to the Edmonton Sun, Rempel said, using rather crass terminology to hold the government to account “now is when the rubber hits the road,” and went on to ask, “how do we make sure this group of people are positioned for success.”
The last statement makes no substantive or intelligent contribution to the matter. How does the federal government make sure that any group of people in Canada are in a position for success? This is an ongoing concern for every group in society, new refugees included.
Willing to find fault with anything short of perfection while at the same time resorting to hearsay, Rempel also said, “We’ve heard of refugees being in temporary accommodation for a much longer period of time than the government had advertised.”
This assertion is absurd considering what many of the recently arrived refugees have already endured. Displaced and without any accommodation, most have made perilous journeys in fear for their lives, only to languish in the ultimate temporary accommodation of a refugee camp, waiting in limbo not knowing when their ordeal might end.
Not to be smug, but it is reasonable to assume that temporary accommodation in Calgary or Vancouver compares favourably to waiting indefinitely in a refugee camp in Jordan. I would imagine the Syrian refugees’ arduous journeys and their experiences in refugee camps has given them the forbearance not to expect everything to fall into line automatically. I am sure, like most people, they expect things to improve by degrees and with some initial assistance get to a place of autonomy, free to make things happen by their own initiative.
I am sure, when those who have recently arrived in Canada see other refugees on TV, confronted at border crossings by razor wire and tear gas, those who are here are not thinking that Canada should have waited until circumstances were ideal to bring them over. In a humanitarian crisis, the perfect time to act is now, to do things as quickly as possible to alleviate the situation for those in dire need.
Although the government has met its target, the matter is not over for Canada. Immigration Minister John McCallum revealed, as only 17,000 of the 25,000 refugees now in Canada have been government sponsored and the rest privately supported, the government intends to bring in an additional 8,000 refugees before the end of 2016. I hope that the political rhetoric does not continue advocating that we do not invite anyone else over until we have the place nicely organized.

Share this post