Report Card: Canada’s Syrian Refugee Plan

October 6, 2015; Hegyeshalom in Hungary. Portrait of refugees leaving Hungary. They came by train and then they leaving Hungary and go to Austria and then to Germany. Many of them are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. October 6, 2015; Hegyeshalom

A quick report card on some of the key elements of Canada’s Syrian Refugee Plan,

Extended Deadline                                                               B

Until today, the Government had been promising to land 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of the year.  They’ve extended the deadline to February, with 10,000 arriving before Dec. 31.  It was a silly promise to make, but a politically important one during the campaign.  Amending it is good governance.

Reduced Funding                                                                  D

The Government had promised to fully fund 25,000 refugees. Today it scaled that back to 15,000 with a further 10,000 being funded by private citizens and groups.  There is a great upwelling of support across Canada and the community wants to help out.  It’s a broken promise.  But, rather than tax everyone for all 25,000, I support the idea of letting some people, who are willing to pay more, do so.

Families First                                                                          B

The Government will focus on admitting full families, with children, which makes sense.  There are millions in need and more than 25,000 families, I’m sure. The Government will not admit single, straight males as part of this influx of refugees, in order to mitigate the risk of admitting terrorists or individuals most susceptible to radicalization in Canada.  This makes sense.

Women at risk and LGBT refugees                                   F

The Government will also admit women-at-risk and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.  This is a laudable objective: to single out for preferential treatment groups that are likely to be most at risk of abuse in Syria and refugee camps. But, it is foolish to think that women and LGBT persons cannot be radicalized.

Is there a test to prove you’re LGBT?  Or are we going to take people at their word?  Many Arab men I knew in Egypt and Syria, who consider themselves straight, were comfortable having recreational sex with other men.  Are they LGBT?  Why should it matter?  It’s not just single straight men that represent a higher risk of terrorist action.

Jews and Christians may also be singled out in Syria and refugee camps for abuse.  Why not admit them as well.  It’s an equally valid criterion.  This policy is purely politics and flies in the face of the security concerns driving the “families first” priority.

Cost                                                                                             C-

Projected at $678 million, that’s $45,000 for each of the 15,000 government-funded refugees. That said, when has any Government plan come in on budget?

Overall                                                                                       C-

Accepting refugees from this conflict is the right thing to do.  Doing it wisely is the smart thing to do.  This is a passable plan.