Canada Needs To Burnish Its Refugee Assistance Credentials

By James Metcalfe | February 24, 2015

James Metcalfe | Pace Law Firm | Director of ImmigrationIn about 5 weeks, Canada will mark the 40th anniversary of the start of the Vietnamese Refugee program which saw the acceptance of over 50,000 Vietnamese boat people and other Vietnamese refugees in Canada. The program was ongoing for almost ten years and saw the establishment of a viable and visible community in Canada.

Although we as a nation were not directly involved in the Vietnam war (apart from selling arms and munitions to our American neighbours), the government of the day decided to address the humanitarian crisis and dispatched immigration officers to South East Asia to process boat people. I should know, because I was one of them.

Today, we have several similar situations where Canada could step up and assist in the resettlement of refugees and displaced people. A million persons displaced from Syria, and many more from Iraq, appear to be viewed as statistics by the government of Canada. In fact, contra Stalin, these numbers represent a tragedy. We should be helping these people.

Today, we have several similar situations where Canada could step up and assist in the resettlement of refugees and displaced people. 

Similarly, we have a developing refugee crisis or, more correctly, a situation involving displaced persons in the Ukraine. Ethnic Ukrainians, as opposed to those of Russian origin, are being driven out of Eastern Ukraine and will continue to be displaced by the Russian majority.
There has long been a history of Ukrainian migration to Canada, particularly to Western Canada. This migration really got going in the 1880s and continued until after WWII. Now there is a vibrant Ukrainian community in Canada and, like the Polish movement of the 1980s, it is not unreasonable to believe that the Canadian Ukrainian leadership could lobby the government to assist displaced persons from Eastern Ukraine. I feel that they should begin this lobbying drive now.
Unfortunately, I am not as optimistic about a large number of displaced Syrians coming to Canada. The Syrian community in Canada does not appear to be united in this effort, and the government has already said that they will accept 12,000 persons over the next few years provided they are community sponsored. Time will tell if the Syrian community can step up and make this happen. I hope they can.