Balancing security and compassion
Author: elisabeth sahlmueller – contributor
One of the most valuable lessons I learned in elementary school was the problems that result from stereotyping. As a child, stereotyping was a difficult concept to fully understand, but I realize that this way of thinking has a big influence consciously and unconsciously on people’s beliefs and attitudes regarding major issues. The decision of our government to bring Syrian refugees into Canada has become a very controversial topic and many people have mixed views on it. Due to recent events, it’s understandable for there to be increased fear and panic in most Canadian’s minds. However, I think there needs to be a separation between fear and ignorance. That said, I strongly believe that the Liberals have made a good choice to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada.
In 2011, the conflict in Syria turned into a serious civil war. Since 2013, our government has been involved in providing aid to Syria, but until now, it has only been a limited amount. Two years ago, the Conservatives goal was to bring in 11,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2018, but by September of this year, only 2,500 had been brought over. After Justin Trudeau came to power, he stated he planned to follow through on his promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by early January 2016. Trudeau believes that, “we have a responsibility to significantly expand our refugee target and give more victims of war a safe haven in Canada.” Although this date has been pushed back to February 2016 as of earlier last week, there are extensive plans to put all of this into action.
Some Canadians’ fear of Syrian refugees coming into our county is irrational because it’s based on an ignorance of the current situation and the security policies that the Liberal government have outlined. Trudeau wants to bring Syrian refugees over, but is looking to do so in a way that has the lowest security risk. A priority is being given to bring over women, children and families, the majority of the 4.3 million refugees currently living in refugee camps in areas surrounding Syria. Also, Syrians looking to come to Canada must first pass both a medical exam and a security check. They are examined to make sure they are healthy and don’t have any contagious diseases. As well, their biographical information, including fingerprints, is checked through all possible security databases. Once they have completed all these stages without any problems, they will be allowed admittance into Canada. In Canada, they will go through a second round of testing, and once that is finished, they will receive a permanent Canadian residence visa.
Despite this lengthy process, according to an Ipsos survey, 71 per cent of Canadians believe that Canadian security shouldn’t be compromised and “individual Syrian refugees should go through proper screening to make sure they aren’t terrorists, even if this slows down their admission to Canada.” I agree. I believe that it’s important to bring over Syrian refugees because all people deserve a healthy and safe environment to live in, but at the same time, security measures must be taken to ensure the safety of all Canadians.
This controversy has caught the attention of many people, including Rick Mercer (host of the Rick Mercer Report), who focused on this issue in his rant last week. In it, he brought up the fact that this is not the first time Canadians have had mixed feelings towards a massive amount of refugees being brought into the country. The first time was a failed attempt in 1939, when a boat full of 900 Jewish people was turned away. However, in 1979, refugee admittance improved significantly as 60,000 Vietnamese were brought into Canada, despite fears that they were “communists in disguise” or criminals sent from Vietnam. Hopefully, the current situation will turn out as positively as it did in 1979. With proper testing and security checks, I believe that it can. To rephrase a statement in Mercer’s rant: if you see someone drowning, whom you know nothing about, do you throw out a rope to help the individual, or do you let the individual drown?