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Reaction to Syrian refugee issue insult to Canadians


Anger is only one reaction I have had with PM Steven Harper’s handling of the Syrian asylum-seekers. Disgust, disappointment, embarrassment, insulting also apply.

“If Mr. Harper were another person, he would have immediately announced his intention to accept vastly more Syrian asylum-seekers, as well as emergency measures to cut the red tape that keeps them in limbo. He would have found a grateful Syrian family to embrace, and pledged not to sleep until Canada does more. But Mr. Harper is not that person. He is not a man who alters course,” the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente recently wrote. Indeed.

Joe Clarke, a former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister, certainly altered course when the Vietnamese boat people called out to the world for help in 1979. His government mobilized all forces and brought in 60,000 people over 18 months who have enriched our country ever since.

My wife and I were directly involved when the Wellington United Church sponsored a number of refugees. We joined the team to welcome three young people adjust to their new conditions helping them learn English during their first years here. One of the two brothers went out west where he had friends, but the other two, a teenage brother and younger sister lived in an apartment provided by the church for a year and went to school in Wellington and Picton.

At the end of the year we took them into our home to join our young family and help them cope with school and all the other issues teens face. It was one of the most enriching experiences my wife and I have ever had.

The two siblings graduated from local schools, went on to post secondary education, married, have children and careers of their own and continue to be valued members of our family.

It is a great story one repeated across the country. Check out CBC’s documentary about how it all happened at

The Minister of Defense and Conservative candidate in Calgary/Midnapore, Jason Kenney, appeared on CBC’s radio show The House on Saturday September 12. He was trying to put a Conservative positive spin on Harper’s “change of heart” over what Canada can do for the Syrian refugees. He was asked if the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) was too short staffed because of his government’s cut backs. Mr. Kenney denied that that was a problem.

It is my understanding that the Harper cutbacks to the civil service combined with non-replacement of CIC officials upon retirement has resulted in just seven (7) current CIC officials in all of Canada qualified to process refugees on the ground. I’d love to ask Kenny about that.

In a recent open letter, former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien wrote: “In my travels around the globe, I am regularly asked: What has happened to Canada? What has happened to the advanced, peace-seeking, progressive country Canada once was? What has happened to the country that was a model for peace and stability in a tumultuous world? These questions evoke great sadness in me. I am sad to see that in fewer than 10 years, the Harper government has tarnished almost 60 years of Canada’s reputation as a builder of peace and progress.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 10 years to remove that tarnish.

Nigel Sivel

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. Jacqualyn says:

    I completely agree with the comments by “Susan”, the Canadian government needs to take care of Canadians first. Are you aware of how many disabled Canadians cannot afford adequate housing and food?. It isn’t even a question of adequate housing, the fact is the monthly income of a great many disabled persons, is so low that it is a question of food “OR” housing. I am talking about the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children with cancer , MS, Parkinson’s, kidney disease etc… Most of whom would absolutely love to be be well and able to be gainfully employed so they could bring themselves up and out of horrible poverty. Just a little F.Y.I. it cost’s taxpayers approximately $116,000/annually to support a single convict in our prison system, most disabled people try to survive on approximately $12,000/annually. Please tell me where in Canada someone could be housed and eat for this amount? The Canadian government needs to step it up and take care of Canadians first.

  2. Tom says:

    How do I donate to this cause? Thank you for posting!

  3. Paul Cole says:

    Harper has created an environment of fear and intolerance in a country that once prided itself on the acceptance of others beliefs and ways of life. The odds of being killed or hurt by a terrorist act are very low, far less then say being killed in a car accident maybe even less likely then being struck by lightning. Our social programs help many less fortunate Canadians maybe not as much as we would like but as kind caring Canadians we try to help each other and that’s what has made Canadians and Canada the Great Country it was. Racism is a very strong word that has been used to describe some people’s opinions. I don’t think racism is the word to use but Bigotry seems to fit pretty good…..Just my opinion

  4. Susan says:

    Lena you’re beating a dead horse. This is not a racist issue so I don’t know why you want to raise that. Sometimes persons throw out the race card to avoid other important factors. Many believe we need to look after the people in this country that are suffering without food and proper shelter. They are also concerned about the security of the Country and for good reasons.

  5. Marnie says:

    Even if we are disappointed with Harper and some of his decisions we should all be proud to be Canadians Lena. There are many good things about our country and its people.

  6. Lena says:

    When 10 years ago Harper said we wouldn’t recognize Canada when he was through, I never thought it would include me being ashamed of Canada’s role in world affairs, and worse, ashamed of many of my fellow Canadians for their self-interest and racist views. Since we are all immigrants to this land (even the aboriginals arrived from elsewhere, hence called First Nations), it is shocking to see how many well educated and basically good-hearted people want to deny refugees the same opportunities that this country once gave their parents, grandparents or earlier ancestors.

  7. Marnie says:

    @Safety First – Is everyone who disagrees with you a horrible person? Is it horrible to have genuine concerns for our own country and its people? Is it horrible to remember that these people are from a different culture and religion and may not be a good fit here? Is it wrong to want to explore the situation fully before making a commitment to bringing them into our country?

  8. Garry Lewis says:

    I think there are an awful lot of Canadians that need help I think we should help our own first not bring in more people for the few that have jobs to support.

  9. Susan says:

    I don’t think the covering of the face has anything to do with religion and more to do with male control. I fail to see why or how someone can become a Canadian citizen when you can’t see who they are.

  10. Emily says:

    Safe and comfortable that we do not have to give up any more of our way of life. Can’t say Merry Christmas anymore, it has to be happy holidays! That is wrong! And if we have immigrants coming into this country we should be able see their faces, not just two eyes.

  11. Richard says:

    What will you say when 2 to 5 years after a fast tracked refugee blows up some one or something because we did not take the time to investigate each application properly. The refugees you mention are from a different time and a different world. If it takes 6 months to investigate each person or 1 year I am sorry and I feel bad about it but I want my Canada to be safe.

  12. Grant says:

    Give your head a shake. Your speaking for you, not all Canadians. If these people feared death and hard times, they would be happy in any country that would take them. They want the free social programs. I have no problem with people changing to be part of whats here, but they want to change what my grandparents built over a hundred or more years ago. They can build their own countries like my family once did. The media wint even show both sides of the story, its sad.

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