I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the constructive and respectful dialogue online over the last day or so pertaining to refugee policy. Despite the anti-foreigner rhetoric over the last few days, there has been some clarification of views and some middle ground to be found between the various pro and anti immigration perspectives being shared online.
From what I can tell, everyone has a common desire to be helpful. The biggest problem though is fear and concern for our safety and well being. These are valid concerns, considering the potential for danger when people from a war-torn area are being relocated.
Another concern is that the needs of new immigrants would trump the needs of existing Canadians, particularly the homeless, the elderly and others that rely on an already stretched thin social assistance program.
I’ve done some digging and I’ll try to address both of the above concerns.
The Canadian Council for Refugees (http://ccrweb.ca/en/myths-facts) provides some helpful facts about refugees and refugee claimants in Canada. It specifically says that “Refugees and others seeking protection pose very little risk to Canada’s security”. It outlines Canada’s front-end security screening process, which is also detailed by the Government of Canada (http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/Eng/BoaCom/references/pol/pol/Pages/polRpdSprExpProAcc.aspx). In a nutshell, CSIS checks all refugee claimants on arrival in Canada. It also says that, “It is far more difficult to enter Canada as a refugee than as a visitor, because the refugee determination process involves security checks by CSIS and the RCMP, fingerprinting and interviews. It is not likely that a person intending to commit a violent act would expose themselves to such detailed examinations. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act excludes refugee claimants if they are found to be inadmissible on the basis of security, serious criminality, organized criminality or human rights violations.”
Various other sources echo these same processes as a key protection against the arrival of malicious individuals as part of the immigration process.
Further to this, a CBC interview today mentioned that government refugee screeners are looking for scenarios where safety is ensured: families with children (particularly women and children) and other similar scenarios that suggest stability and a desire to build a safe, stable family environment. And, in another interview on CBC, an interviewee mentioned that the refugee screening process would not be a good way for potential jihadists to reach their goals as the risk of being discovered was too high. Malicious actors would prefer more subtle routes to accomplish their goals. (sorry, I can’t reference a source for this particular interview so feel free to take this portion of my post with a grain of salt).
Another fact to consider:
As per this factoid from The Economist: 750,000 refugees have been resettled in America since 9/11. Not one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.
While nothing can offer absolute certainty pertaining to safety, I do think that security screening and the desired demographics do help to minimize the potential for abuse that many people are concerned with. And, the path of least resistance that a potential terrorist would prefer does suggest that they would shy away from the screening process that a refugee claim would bring. This does offer me a level of comfort pertaining to support for refugee arrivals in Canada.
Now, what about the potential drain on Canada’s social assistance resources?
According to the Canadian Council for Refugees, “Refugees receive limited, if any, social assistance from government authorities” (http://ccrweb.ca/en/myths-facts). “For several years, a persistent chain email has been circulating claiming that refugees receive significantly more money in income assistance than Canadians collecting a pension. The information, which is based on a letter published in the Toronto Star has been disproven by the federal government”. The Government of Canada posted the following:
“Question: Do government-assisted refugees get more income support and benefits than Canadian pensioners do?”
“Answer: No. Refugees do not get more financial help from the federal government than Canadian pensioners do. A widely circulated email makes this false claim. The email mistakenly includes the one-time start-up payment as part of the monthly payment. The amount of monthly financial support that government-assisted refugees get is based on provincial social assistance rates. It is the minimum amount needed to cover only the most basic food and shelter needs.
Many refugees selected for resettlement to Canada have been forced to flee their country because of extreme hardship. Some may have been living in refugee camps for many years. When they arrive in Canada, they must start their lives again in a country very different from their own.
In keeping with Canada’s proud humanitarian traditions, individuals and families get immediate and essential services and support to help them become established in Canada.”
The same myths and facts page (http://ccrweb.ca/en/myths-facts) also offers that “the cost of healthcare for refugees and refugee claimants amounts to a fraction of that of other Canadians”.
So, while I do think that many people do not receive the social assistance that they may need, I do think that the above answers highlight a fair and balanced approach to helping people in need.
So yeah… I found the above by doing only a quick Google search. The Government of Canada is quite transparent on their immigration policy and they provide a good overview of the protections that they provide. They also provide a good overview of their funding model to support new immigrants (and dispel the myth that immigrants get a lot more financial support than pensioners).
What do you think? Does this help alleviate your safety and fairness concerns? Any other questions, comments or concerns? Or, any refutations to the information that I’ve highlighted above? Feel free to provide your feedback in the comments below.