Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “suspend” his Syrian refugee plan, saying the government being driven by dates and numbers “may affect the safety of our citizens and the security of our country.”
Governors in more than 20 U.S. states are now saying they will not accept any Syrian refugees.
But B.C. premier Christy Clark does not share that same sentiment. She says that while every refugee has to be “properly screened,” British Columbians and Canadians should “open [their] doors” to refugees as soon as they can.
“Here’s the thing. Security for Canadians has to come first,” Clark told reporters today. “We have to make sure Canadians, British Columbians, are safe and secure. That’s the job of the federal government. They have those processes in place, and so, what I would say is, they need to make sure that their processes are working, that those security checks are being done properly.”
Clark said that is when the government can invite refugees to come to Canada, although she is not sure about the 25,000 Syrian refugees likely to be resettled in Canada. “I don’t know whether or not that number’s the right one, I just know that Canadians want to know that the security processes are working well,” she said.
About 2,700 refugees are expected in B.C. before the end of the year.
“But having said that though, I understand the urgency that people are feeling about inviting these people who are from one of the worst, war-torn countries, regions in the world who are facing the kind of violence every day that unfolded in Paris over the weekend,” added Clark.
“As Canadians, as compassionate people, who have prosperity to share, we want to make sure that we open our doors to give them somewhere safe to live as soon as we can.”
People who are fleeing their country due to war or terrorism have to go through a rigorous screening process before they can be considered as potential refugees in another country.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is primarily the responsibility of the hosting country to screen everyone properly and separate “out combatants and those involved in activities incompatible with the civilian character of asylum, from refugees.”
“Further to this, UNHCR does also seek to identify such people at registration stage as well as subsequent protection interviews, and questions about past or current military activities, affiliations, or other relevant issues, including future plans are part of UNHCR’s registration, assessment, refugees status determination and resettlement activities.”
We also have a number of biometric security and anti-fraud measures built into registration systems in operations, such as iris scanning.”
The UNHCR has laid out the common processing stages in a flow chart (see below):
In Canada, refugee resettlement eligibility criteria will only consider an applicant for resettlement as a convention refugee (someone who is unwilling to return to their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on: race; religion; political opinion; nationality) under certain conditions:
They are referred by UNHCR, another designated referral organization or a private sponsorThe applicant must meet the criteria of the 1951 UN Convention or meet the criteria of the Humanitarian-protected Persons Abroad Class (HPC)The applicant must have no reasonable prospect, within a reasonable period, of a durable solution in a country other than CanadaNormally, applicants must show potential to become self-sufficient and successfully establish in Canada within a three to five year time frame. Factors such as education, presence of a support network (family or sponsor) in Canada, work experience and qualifications, ability to learn to speak English or French and other personal suitability factors such as resourcefulness will be taken into account by visa officers. However, these criteria do not apply to refugees determined by a visa officer to fall within the categories “urgent need of protection” or “vulnerable”Applicants must pass a medical examination, but refugees are not refused on grounds of medical inadmissibility due to excessive demand on Canada’s healthcare systemApplicants must also undergo criminal screening and Canada will not accept any person who participated in· criminal activity, criminal organizations, or violation of human or international rightsEither upon request of the foreign national or on the Minister’s own initiative, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act gives the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the authority to apply judgment and flexibility in cases that do not meet the requirements of the Act, but which are justified by humanitarian and compassionate considerations or public policy
Peter Showler, a former chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, said the images being shown of refugees crossing European borders is different than what will happen in Canada. “This chaotic flow of refugees into the country is drastically different then the security screens that are in place for Canada’s resettlement process,” he said.
“These are people who have been in refugee camps for three or four years, a lot is known about them. They were the first to flee the Syrian conflict.”
Showler said admitting refugees to Canada can be a fairly quick process, maybe taking between six and 12 weeks.
Clark is getting ready to welcome the refugees to B.C.
“We want to make sure that refugees that are settling in British Columbia are settling around the breadth of British Columbia if we can,” she said. “Because housing affordability is tough, as we know, in the Lower Mainland, and there’s an abundance of jobs in some regions of the province where they are begging for people to come. So we want to make sure the refugees that we welcome in British Columbia have the best chance of success possible. And for some of them, that will mean settling outside the Lower Mainland.”