The hypocrisy of the Syrian refugee debate

By Beryl Wajsman, Editor

Clearly the Syrian refugee crisis should not be allowed to degenerate into a Rwandan massacre or a Darfuri genocide or the everlasting shame of the “none is too many” policy of Western countries on Jewish refugees during the Nazi era. But the current debate on what Canada’s role should be is so filled with political opportunism by opposition leaders and factual inaccuracies by the media, that it beggars the imagination and leaves one breathless in its hypocrisy.

The Harper administration long ago condemned and sanctioned the Assad regime. It was the Harper administration that sent Canadian forces to bomb ISIS. Both these policies were opposed by the NDP and Liberals who wanted “discussion” and “humanitarian relief” only. These parties, and their leaders, have no moral authority or political legitimacy in attacking the Canadian government for reacting too slowly. If they had been in power, how many more Syrian refugees would there be with a dithering foreign and military agenda?

Canada takes in more refugees per capita than any country in the industrialized west except for the United States. Under this government, alone it has taken in a record near 300,000 over the past seven years.

This is not to say we should not raise our limits for Syrian refugees. But it must be done allowing for proper verifications. Why is it that those who demonstrate against Canada’s policies, say nothing about the Gulf States slamming their doors shut to these refugees? Saudi Arabia borders Syria. It has the money to build a proper refugee center that would allow the refugees sanctuary, and would also allow diplomats from western countries to send representatives there to do appropriate processing. But these Gulf States, the richest in the world, do nothing and somehow face no criticism from our activist community here at home.

The tragic case that sparked the refugee debate, has been misrepresented in all its aspects. The father of the drowned little boy had not even applied to come to Canada. His brother had. He had worked in Turkey for two years. He risked his family to get to Greece for economic reasons. And the tragic fate ensued. Why has the media not exposed the true facts and why have opposition leaders misled the Canadian public?

The latest salvo from former Prime Minister Chretien that he was “ashamed” of Mr. Harper’s foreign policy is disingenuous to say the least. Chretien seemed most bothered by the fact that Canada has stepped up militarily against Arab tyrants in Iraq and Syria and Libya. Somehow he feels that by siding with coalitions fighting barbarism, Canada has lost its “peacekeeper” status. Well Mr. Chretien, you can’t have it both ways. Liberals can’t attack the Harper government for not doing enough for refugees and then attack it again for playing a role in trying to bring down the dictators who made them refugees in the first place. As Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, arguably Canada’s greatest military hero of the post-War period and the commander of UN peacekeepers in the Balkans, has said so often, “You can’t do much peacekeeping until you do some peacemaking.”

Much of the peacekeeper image is very much the stuff of urban legend. Historians have documented that Canada was used by the British and French to find a face-saving way out of Suez after Eisenhower demanded it in 1956. The idea of the Blue Berets was one that Canada was simply asked to present at the UN by the British. Lester Pearson was the senior diplomat who worked it at the UN, providing cover for British-French withdrawal. As it happens, over the years, Canada supplied less peacekeepers than at least nine other countries on a pro rata basis.

Canadians have always been peacemakers first, having more of our citizens in uniform as a percentage of population than even the US in both World Wars and Korea.

The opposition and media pointed loudly to the fact that certain European countries like Germany made bold statements that they would take in up to 500,000 Syrian refugees. Yet they have chosen to ignore the fact that just this week European nations—including Germany—have shut their borders to Syrian refugees until proper screening procedures are in place. Europe is following exactly what Prime Minister Harper said in the first days of the refugee debate.

Sadly, not every problem can be solved by instant solutions. And in this case, unlike in World War II, western countries are not the only sanctuary nations. International refugee conventions are now governed by the “first safe country” rule. The name of the doctrine is self-explanatory. So while the west, including Canada, prepares appropriate policies for taking in more Syrian refugees, let us increase our aid to Turkey and Jordan—frontline first safe countries—that have taken in so many and let all civil society pressure the Gulf States—the other first safe countries—to open their borders.

The current position of the opposition parties in this country is nothing but cheap political posturing and the current debate in the media is nothing but an uneducated sham.


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