Is Canada’s Syria Refugee Deadline Practical?

By James Metcalfe | November 10, 2016

James Metcalfe - Director of Immigration

James Metcalfe – Director of Immigration

Director of Immigration Jim Metcalfe: As the clock continues to tick, the Canadian government has doubled down on its commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of 2015:

The Liberal government is marshalling its most senior cabinet ministers to shepherd the massive task of bringing in thousands of Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

“The commitment is to have 25,000 of them here by the end of the year. We are working on the logistics of that,” Immigration and Refugees Minister John McCallum told reporters Monday in the House of Commons.

“We are working on the process for selecting the refugees, for getting exit permits for these refugees. We have to engage with leaders of the countries in which the refugees are now residing . . . we are working on all these fronts at the same time.”

As of Tuesday, November 10 there will be 51 days left in the calendar year to get this job done.

While I respect the government’s decision and resolve, I question whether they can meet their target. It would mean one Boeing 787 or an Airbus 380 delivering 500 refugees to Canada per day. Does Canada really have the infrastructure to do this?

Practical Experience

While the politicians are meeting to plan their attack, the real issue is putting people on the ground in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to start processing displaced persons. I presume the government will be enlisting the assistance of the many NGOs who have assisted in past similar movements.

The problem, of course, is that under the previous government there was really no large movements of people for 10 years. I therefore suspect the immigration department does not have an institutional memory of the movement of boat people from Southeast Asia, refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala or any other mass movements of people to Canada. Not being able to draw on such experience will hamstring Canada’s efforts to help the Syrians.

I hope the government can pull this off and I applaud the effort. Still, while I have my doubts about their chances, I will certainly not be critical if they fall short.