Last year, when President Trump introduced his controversial immigration bans on several predominantly-Muslim countries, including war-torn nations like Syria and Yemen, the Canadian Prime Minister offered a ray of hope when he offered his country as a sanctuary for those seeking asylum. He reassured desperate refugees all over the world when he said: “To all those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.” However, now that thousands of refugees are entering Canada through their border with the US (7,500 asylum seekers in the first four months of 2018 alone), Canada is moving to restrict its once welcoming arms to immigrants. In April 2018, Canada’s immigration department sent a message via Twitter stating that “there are no guarantees you can stay in Canada.” Why are they appearing to reverse their immigration policies once refugees actually start looking to Canada for help? What happened to that tone of acceptance and warm welcome that Trudeau’s government radiated just last year?
Photo: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash
The refugees are becoming less easy to sympathize with.
Though not the most logical or obvious, one important factor determining whether or not Canada will admit a refugee is the Canadian government’s perception of how much the individual has suffered. To elaborate, throughout 2017 and 2018, refugees of the civil war in Syria maintained and still maintain a high acceptance rate in Canada (84%). However, many of the refugees now coming to Canada are from different countries with less drastic problems, such as Haiti and its insidious levels of poverty. Haitians are only being accepted at a rate of 9% in Canada! According to Wendy Ayotte of Bridges Not Borders (a refugee help group in Canada), “there’s a perception that Canada is being invaded” by poor refugees who want nothing but welfare handouts. While Canadians are still willing to accept people with well-known struggles, they are much less willing to accept people who come for more economic reasons, for fear that the refugees will just use social assistance instead of working. It is worth noting that these concerns are not entirely irrational, as a recent study done in Nova Scotia revealed that around 60% of the approximately 1,500 refugees there were on social welfare because they could not find work. If the welcomed Syrian refugees ended up unemployed, imagine what would become of the less-welcomed Haitian refugees.
Fear of Terrorism
While a persistent fear of radical Islamic terrorism is typically seen as an American problem, Canadians are also having similar perceptions. According to the testimony of a member of the Angus Reid Institute (a market research firm), Canadians apparently fear radical Islamic terrorism more than other forms of terrorism, including white nationalism. Furthermore, these fears are often drawn from reality. In June 2017, a 32 year old woman attacked employees at a tire store in Ontario with a golf club and subsequently threatened them with a knife. The woman, allegedly a Syrian refugee, pledged allegiance to ISIS during her court hearing. In October 2017, Abdulahi Sharif, a Somalian immigrant, was charged with 5 counts of attempted murder after he stabbed a police officer and tried to trample civilians with a vehicle, and currently has pending terrorism charges against him. While no charges have been levied yet, that is soon likely to change since a black ISIS flag was discovered near the attack. While these attacks are not nearly as large in scale as some American terrorist attacks, like the 2015 Pulse nightclub shooting, or the attacks on 9/11, they still put people’s lives in danger and are therefore great cause for concern. It is unfortunate, but perhaps the the main reason for the Canadian government’s restricted welcome to refugees is the fear that an open welcome could lead to a future terrorist attack.
Tuhin Chakraborty is an 18 year old freshman at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He is considering studying History and Political Science there. His favorite book is Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Tuhin believes that success is gaining the respect of everyone who knows you. He steps up for Civic Engagement: getting young people involved in politics and community action.