When pictures of the child whose body washed up on a Turkish beach emerged, it made the Syrian crisis a key issue in the Canadian election. But what do the federal party leaders propose to do about it?
Over four million refugees have fled the conflicts in Syria, but according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, of the millions leaving to flee from an Islamic State insurgency and a four year long civil war, only 10 percent of refugees are attempting the dangerous journey to Europe. Most end up in countries close to Syria such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Canadian political party leaders are proposing to bring more Syrian refugees to Canada, but their proposed target numbers are only in the tens of thousands.
Conservatives: In 2013, the Conservative government began opening spaces for Syrian refugees with the goal of taking in 11,300 refugees by the end of 2018. Of those, only about 2,500 had arrived by September 2015. In August this year, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promised to bring in an additional 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees over four years if reelected.
NDP: The New Democrats have committed to bringing 46,000 Syrian refugees to Canada over four years if elected. However, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair faces pressure from within his own party to double that number.
Liberals: Leader Justin Trudeau has pledged that, if the Liberals are elected, they would resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by 1 January 2016.
About 600 Canadian soldiers and 69 special forces trainers are involved in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Initially, Canada’s contribution to the U.S led coalition fighting the Islamic State was limited to a six month mission of air strikes in Iraq but in March, the government extended the mission by a year and to reach into Syria as well. The NDP and Liberal leaders opposed the extension.
However, just three months after the extension of Canada’s air mission, only three attacks on Syrian soil had been reported.
NDP: Mr. Mulcair has long opposed the U.S. led coalition in Iraq and Syria and says an NDP government would withdraw Canadian troops from it immediately.
Conservatives: Mr. Harper says military action would address the refugee crisis at its source.
Liberals: Instead of combat mission, the Liberals would focus on the training of local forces and humanitarian support.
Alan Kurdi’s father, Abdullah, blames a Canadian Catch 22 for his son’s death, who drowned along with his mother and two brothers when a rubber dinghy carrying the Kurdi family capsized off the Turkish coast in early September.
Alan’s uncle, Mohammad’s application for refugee status in Canada was denied by Citizenship and Immigration Canada because the application didn’t meet the rules for proof of refugee status. In an interview with German media, Abdullah blamed Canadian authorities for the circumstances leading to his wife and children’s deaths. Under its immigration rules at the time, Canada needed individual refugee claims to be approved by another country or by a UN agency. But in the case of Mohammad Kurdi, the UNHCR wouldn’t give its approval unless Canada agreed first to accept those claims.
The Kurdis’ tragedy again brought up criticism of the red tape involved in bringing refugees to Canada.
Conservatives: On Sept. 20, the Conservative government announced that it would scrap the requirement of UNHCR proof for refugee applicants and would fast track the applications of 10,000 refugees, at a cost of $25million.
Liberals: A Liberal government would directly sponsor Syrian refugees to help meet their pledge of 25,000 refugees by 2016.
NDP: Mr. Mulcair has pledged to immediately name a commissioner who would be dispatched to the Middle East to speed up the processing of refugees.
Settling a family of four in Canada costs roughly $27,000. Bringing refugees to Canada is expensive, but church groups, non governmental organizations and corporate donations are helping to ease the burden for Syrians wishing to live here.
In Edmonton, Mennonite and Muslim community groups have co-operated to reunite refugees living in Jordan, Turkey and Egypt with their relatives. Canadian companies, including the Toronto Dominion Bank and Air Canada, stepped up humanitarian donations after the Kurdi picture renewed attention on the crisis.
Conservatives: The Harper government announced on Sept. 12 that it would match “eligible” donations – to a maximum of $100million – made by Canadians from Sept. 12 to Dec. 31 to registered charities working to help Syrian refugees.
NDP: NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar estimated that the NDP’s plan would cost $74 million to bring 10,000 refugees to Canada by the end of this year, and an additional $63.8million to bring in 9,000 each year until 2019.
Liberals: The party estimates that its plan to resettle Syrian refugees faster will cost $100 million in this fiscal year, and $250million overall.