In Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau has frequently demonstrated his support of accepting refugees into the country. He personally greeted many of them providing them with clothing, essentials, and a warm “Welcome to Canada.”1
Is this a reckless move by the Prime Minister?
Are we foolishly opening our doors to danger?
Could a terrorist not sneak in among the refugees?
What if the screening process misses a threat?
(Photo By: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
These are reasonable questions. These are valid concerns. I spend a lot of time in downtown Toronto. I have had some of these concerns myself. I could not imagine the horror of a major attack occurring at the Eaton Center, or Nathan Phillips Square. I have friends and loved ones who near live near by. I too share these concerns, I too want nothing but the best for my loved ones, and for my fellow citizens, and for my country.
While reflecting on these concerns, there are important questions we also must ask ourselves. At which point do we allow fear to trump compassion? When do we decide to close our doors to the rest of humanity? When do we decide our own local community matters more than the global community?
What really determines the answer to these questions is how you view your place on this planet. Are you a strict Nationalist? Or are you a member of a broader global community? This is the essential divide among many of the debates regarding the refugee crisis. The discourse is often framed around keeping “our” country safe from external threats. If you see yourself as a Nationalist, with an honourable duty to protect your fellow citizens, then accepting refugees is an unnecessary risk. However if you see yourself as a member of a global community, then it is ludicrous to not accept other humans in need, regardless of which state they are from or what perceived threat you believe they might bring.
What is occurring in the Middle East, and especially in countries such as Syria, should not be viewed as a Middle Eastern problem. This is not a Syrian problem, or a Muslim problem. This is a human problem. The goal of our shared global civilization should not be to divide and repel victims of tragedy, but to invite, protect, and embrace our common humanity.
This was the image that captivated the world.
This is the image that made the mainstream media and world leaders turn their heads and clue into the horror of the migrant’s journey. This was not the first child death, this was not the first tragedy, but this moment shook the world. It lead to promises of change, promises of collaboration, and promises to vigilantly support and protect the refugees.
Some countries lived up to their promises. Germany, the centerpiece of the European refugee initiative, showed enthusiastic action to help as many refugees as they could.3 Canada also met its first goal of bringing in 25,000 refugees. The world seemed to be generally moving towards a supportive role in accepting the refugees into multiple states. The November 2015 Paris attacks, and later the March 2016 Brussels’ bombing unfortunately reinvigorated the fears and concerns of many around the world.
The refugee crisis in Europe is very different than the refugee crisis in Canada and the US. In Europe thousands of migrants are showing up on the doorsteps of European countries undocumented and often unchecked. In Canada, mostly due to simple geography, we have escaped the worst of the crisis and we can carefully and accurately vet who we allow in. Many have argued that the risk of a potential terrorist coming into Canada through the refugee process is reason to halt the process entirely. This understandable fear of an attack is however both not likely, nor reason enough to cease our support. Canada according to Quebec Public Security Minister Pierre Moreau has a screening process that is “one of the strictest and most rigorous in the world.”4
This is the process to enter Canada as a refugee5:
1. They must first enter a UN camp.
2. In the camp UN officials screen and separate combatants from asylum seekers.
3. Once approved after meeting strict guidelines, the most at risk refugees, such as the elderly, children, or the persecuted, are connected to a host of countries for application. (Canada is currently only accepting woman, children, and families.)
4. Refugees are then assigned a Canadian Visa Officer to oversee their transition.
5. Further interviews, health inspections, and background checks are performed.
6. Special attention is paid to searching for connections to terrorist groups or human rights abuses.
7. Applicants names and personal information is then run through several international databases for further security screening. (Such as CSIS and Interpol.)
8. If everything passes, families are spread throughout Canada, entering into housing and transitional programs with guidance and support.
Security experts say the chance of a terrorist entering Canada through the refugee process is “infinitesimal.”
Instead of helping the victims, some have argued that the refugees should just “go back home”. One photo of Aleppo demonstrates the foolishness of such a statement.
The refugees cannot return, their cities are in ruin and the conflict persists. They are searching for safety and for a new home. The faster they are moved from the UN camps into new countries the better. The refugee camps are notorious for acting as breeding grounds for radicalization. The faster refugees are moved into new countries, the less chance any radicalization might occur.6
One of the strongest ways to stop terrorism is to prevent opportunities for recruiters to find more victims. Confused, alienated, hungry, and angry young individuals are what terrorist recruiters search for. By bringing young children to Canada, by showing them compassion, by creating an environment of safety, acceptance, and stability, we are directly reducing terrorism in the world and the opportunity for terrorists to find and mould new members.
Accepting refugees into Canada is rigorous, safe, and directly contributes to reducing levels of radicalization and alienation. Furthermore, it is in crisis that true acts of compassion and altruism shine. It is easy to reject refugees. It is easy to clog our minds with fear and to revert into isolationism and populism. We must pick the harder path.
Where Canada can truly show its modernity, where we as a people can really make an impact in the world, is by continuing to support efforts of peace, the acceptance of those in need, and by providing welfare to those escaping the horrors of conflict. Canada’s past is a mixed legacy of internal conflict and progressive peacekeeping; our future can be one defined by strength, acceptance, and compassion.
Canada is exactly the type of society that can, should, and must accept refugees and the victims of tragedy.
By Daniel Govedar (May 2016) (Edited May 2017)
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