Canada’s Response To The Syrian Refugee Crisis Less Than Spectacular

By James Metcalfe | September 16, 2015

James Metcalfe - Director of Immigration

James Metcalfe – Director of Immigration

Jim Metcalfe – Director of Immigration: After over a week of saying nothing about the Syrian refugee crisis, the Canadian government finally said that they are going to increase the number of refugees to be accepted into Canada:

The Conservatives, after continued criticism they are not doing enough to address the Syrian refugee crisis, are expected to announce within days some new ways Canada could help.

At a campaign stop in P.E.I., Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said he wasn’t in a position to announce specific measures Thursday, but his government was “going to take some concrete steps to expedite the process” of resettling Syrian refugee families to Canada.

Campaign officials told CBC News new measures to speed up the process of bringing in Syrian refugees would be unveiled soon.

FEELING THE HEAT

Interestingly, most of the announcements about the crisis are being made by everybody but the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He appears to be missing in action after taking some heat on the issue earlier this month.

In any case, the government has been less than specific about how they will help during this crisis. Presumably they hope the problem will go away. It will not.

My view of the situation is that the Canadian government does not have the will nor the ability to respond quickly and effectively in any refugee crisis situation of this magnitude. The number of visa officers serving outside of Canada has shrunk considerably over the past 10 years, to the point where there is little flexibility in the system.

ARM’S LENGTH

You may be surprised to learn that most persons applying for any benefits under the Immigration Act never actually see a visa officer. They are dealt with at arm’s length – usually by email – over great distances by staff who have little local knowledge of the situation in that person’s country of origin. For instance, Canadian visa officers at the High Commission in London, England deal with some cases originating in Pakistan, while embassy staff in Poland deals with some Russian cases. The list goes on.

In addition to this arm’s length approach, the government of Canada has ceded the determination of who is a refugee to the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR. It will require a miracle or an epiphany by the Prime Minister if Canada is to respond to the crisis in a greater, more meaningful way.