Welcoming response to Syrian refugees defines us as Canadians

I am delighted, as I’m sure most of you are, that we have stepped up the numbers of Syrian refugees we will be welcoming to our country, our province and our city; and the sooner the better.

I am also pleased, by the way, that along with increasing our commitment on refugees, Justin Trudeau is (so far) sticking to his plan to terminate our relatively miniscule involvement in aerial bombing raids on ISIL.

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While some of the pundit class would consider this difference of tactics with the United States and grumblings from a few up here particularly after Paris, the end of Trudeau’s political “honeymoon,”   I wouldn’t bet on it.

The most sane and sober analysis I’ve seen all supports the notion that if there must be a battle, the best way to limit the reach of that murderous gang of terrorists is to beat them on the ground. That is where Canada will focus its efforts by training ground troops. It would certainly reduce the type of collateral damage we have seen so far including the U.S. bombing of a friendly field hospital.

But back to the refugees: Our city is alive with people coming forward with the desire to help. There is developer Ian Gillespie with his promise of a dozen fully equipped apartments for the short term. And there are church groups and synagogues and mosques gathering funds and organizing information sessions that tend to overflow with enthusiastic folks wanting to know how they can help.

It is all, it seems, a tonic to the parsimonious misery we were subject to during our trying times with Stephen Harper’s Tories as they continued to embarrass us on the world stage.

Our response to this enormous humanitarian crisis helps define us as Canadians. We are for the most part a country of immigrants and refugees. We find it energizing to help. It is a point of pride.

There is of course Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall who, just after the attacks on Paris, sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to delay the plan for refugees: “I understand that the overwhelming majority of refugees are fleeing violence and bloodshed and pose no threat to anyone,” wrote Wall. “However, if even a small number of individuals who wish to do harm to our country are able to enter Canada as a result of a rushed refugee resettlement process, the results could be devastating.”

I’d rather rely less on Wall’s speculative fear mongering than assurances from the likes of Canadian Security Intelligence Services head Michel Coulombe who notes that security screenings of refugees is and will continue to be “robust.”

Thankfully, we are unlike the Americans. The plaque on their Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.”

But the signs on 31 U.S. state legislatures say “Go back to where you came from.”

And federal legislators, including many Democrats want senior bureaucrats to sign on each and every refugee guaranteeing they won’t cause trouble. Meanwhile, the leading Republican presidential candidate, “The Donald” Trump, wants every Muslim whether born in the United States or an immigrant to be registered and tracked by security forces.

Bringing 25,000 refugees on board here will cost much more than originally budgeted and likely take more time. I am reminded that we, as a matter of uneventful regularity, bring 250,000 newcomers to Canada each year and about 10 percent of those happen to be refugees.

There is one question I would like answered, and I note this is before I have seen the Liberals’ logistics for their refugee plan that was due on Tuesday but after my deadline. That question is: Just who among the refugees will not be included?

As you may know, last week it was rumoured that for security reasons the Liberals would give preference to families and exclude “unaccompanied” men.

This would be a mistake and not only because those men would be just as much victims of the terror as every one of the millions of refugees trying to escape.  But if would feed the ISIL propaganda machine and create for them a possible pool of recruits, convinced that the West considers them the enemy.

agarr@vancourier.com

@allengarr

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