Sears: Canada is still admitting Afghan refugees at a glacial pace. Justin Trudeau must set a fire underneath our immigration officials

Overly harsh on IRCC staff and under-estimating the issues and processes involved but valid critique of the pace of bringing them to Canada in a more timely manner. Risks feeding the “over-promise, under-deliver” government narrative:

I suspect being a senior immigration official is only marginally less boring than being a night watchman, and that might sour their view of the world. Nonetheless, on three continents over several decades it has been my experience that those who control the visa stamps are all conditioned to find a way to say “No,” or “Later,” or “We’ll get back to you” — and then don’t. Ours are no different.

A young relative of mine was denied entry into Canada, after an especially obnoxious senior Canadian immigration official declared to her mother that they were not convinced that this was a “sincere adoption” — the staggering assumption being, I suppose, that the new mother would sell her beloved infant on arriving in Canada. Serious political pressure was required to reverse the insulting judgment. Plenty of Canadians have similarly awful stories to tell.

This is the reality that too many terrified Afghan refugees are facing today. The Taliban threaten their lives and their families constantly; Canadian NGOs desperately struggle to find paths out for them; and our senior immigration officials are unresponsive or unreachable. This too will require serious political pressure to fix, from the prime minister.

The parallel with Syria is quite plain. There, our immigration officials also tried their usual delaying devices until two very determined ministers, supported by PM Justin Trudeau, said, “Enough! Get this done.” Thousands of Syrians were quickly welcomed to Canada. Though the Syrians were fleeing a war zone, the risks the Afghans face are far more specific, urgent and life-threatening.

A favourite blocage used today is, of course, national security. As in “Yes Minister,” a Canadian Sir Humphrey might ooze, “Well, minister, that would be very courageous, questioning the advice of our national security advisers. Highly politically risky, but courageous, ma’am!” I was not aware that we have had a rash of terrorist attacks in the six years since thousands of Syrians built new lives for their families here.

We had little previous knowledge of many of the Syrians we admitted then. But many of the Afghans desperate to be rescued from tyranny now are men and women who put their lives at risk assisting Canadian soldiers, diplomats, journalists and NGOs. Hundreds of Canadians know these Afghan families personally.

It is especially embarrassing that we promised safe havens to 40,000 Afghans and have admitted fewer than 7,000. The United States, who have not outranked us in our welcome for immigrants and refugees for many, many years, have admitted over 10 times as many.

At this rate of foot-dragging — fewer than 50 refugees per day — we will be approaching the end of 2023 before we have kept our promise. By then, many of these desperate families will have been tortured and killed. Are we really willing to risk the humiliation and international opprobrium of having their blood on our hands?

Source: Canada is still admitting Afghan refugees at a glacial pace. Justin Trudeau must set a fire underneath our immigration officials

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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