Post-Election: Syria and Canada

Refugees and bombing
Rahman Mohamed

Once upon a time Syria was a country that was barely known.  Only its neighbours would know it existed and its condition.  Today it’s a household name.  In Canada it’s not just known; it’s debated.  After winning the 2015 Federal Election, the Liberal government is facing its first international challenges: the environment and climate change conference in France and its position on Syria.

On 8 April 2015 the Globe and Mail reported that Canada dropped its first bombs on Syrian soil against ISIL.  As part of his election campaign, Prime Minister Trudeau spoke of bringing in 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015 and end Canada’s mission in Syria.  After meeting with President Obama at the APEC summit in November CTV reported Trudeau said Canada would withdraw its CF-18s but remain part of the mission by adding more ground troops.  The changes is mixed; reports have indicated that Canadians want Canada to remain in the mission combating ISIL but have doubts about bringing in a large amount of refugees in a short period of time.

In the case of refugees Trudeau’s plan has been met with mixed reactions.  Many comment that Trudeau’s plan is moving too fast.  On November 16 CBC reported Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked Trudeau to suspend his plan to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year, opposed by the opposition saying he was using fear.  His concerns were related to the recent Paris attacks on Friday 13 November.

On the other hand in Alberta, Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary says the city will have a plan to settle in 2,300 refugees “with open arms”.

In Quebec, Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil says the province has a target of 5,700 by the end of the year, but in Montreal said “To be frank, I’m not sure it will be possible,” another statement met with mixed reactions.  Mayor Denis Coderre of Montreal “appealed for calm on the issue of Syrian refugees” and told a news conference “The message we want to send is this: Montreal is ready to take in Syrian refugees”.  On the other side Quebec City mayor Dennis Coderre says to slow down the plan, again citing security as the reason.

In Ontario CBC reported that Premier Kathleen Wynne said “We are an inclusive and open society. Except for our aboriginal people, we all came from somewhere else”.  She said Ontario would process 10,000 refugees by the end of 2016 and would do everything it could to help the federal government meet it’s target of 25,000 by the end of the year.  In light of Paris Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke about political promises being second to doing things right for the Canadian people saying

All of these things need to be done properly and thoroughly and carefully … I think that everybody would expect that and I would just say that I would hope we’d place a premium on that, which is doing things right and doing them carefully as opposed to being unduly concerned with what I’ll call political promises

Federal officials say they are working with provincial and department officials around the clock.  The Syrian Refugee Crisis is to top the First Ministers meeting, Prime Minister Trudeau’s meeting with Provincial and Territorial Premiers on 23 November 2015, the first of its kind since 2009.

On 22 November CBC reported that refugees will be limited to children, women, and families.  Although Justin Trudeau and the Liberals made a campaign promise to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015, in light of the attacks on Paris and growing anti-Muslim attitudes in Canada, together with logistics such as housing and support for incoming refugees, it is a plan that could be delayed without backlash.