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

Syrian refugees who now call Canada home look to help Afghan newcomers


The living room at Zoheir and Nadia Darrouba’s home is a hive of activity in the late afternoon – their older children, just back from school, are taking turns carrying around their baby brother as their parents look on.

It’s a simple scene but one that makes Zoheir Darrouba feel at home in the mid-size Ontario city the Syrian refugee family of eight has now put down roots in.

“We have settled here. We cannot live outside Peterborough,” he says. “It’s a good and quiet city. There are not problems here … People are helpful and nice.”

The family is among nearly 46,000 Syrian refugees who were resettled in Canada under a program introduced by the Liberal government in 2015. The first flight carrying Syrian refugees landed in Toronto on Dec. 10, 2015, exactly six years ago.

The Darroubas, who made their way to Canada under the resettlement program in November 2016, used to live in Idlib, in northwest Syria, one of the first regions where local uprisings escalated into widespread violence. The family lived for a period of time in Lebanon before finding themselves settling in Peterborough.

Now, as they consider themselves firmly established locals, the family is looking to help Afghan refugees who’ve started arriving in the city following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul earlier this year, although the pandemic has made that effort a bit more complicated.

“There are several (Afghan) families here … They are in quarantine, unlike before,” said Darrouba, who wants to offer support because he knows first-hand how hard starting over in a new country can be.

“When we came here, we didn’t know anyone here. If someone showed up to visit us, we would feel it’s great support.”

Darrouba currently works as a driver delivering COVID-19 PCR test samples for local pharmacies in Peterborough to a lab in east Toronto.

The family’s five older children, ranging in age from eight to 16, are all doing well at school, their father says, while their mother is staying home to care for her two-month-old.

Nadia Darrouba says she’s content with her Canadian home.

“In my first days in Canada, I used to look at the snow from the window and cry thinking when the winter will be over,” she recalled. “We are very comfortable now. My children grow up here. They don’t know Syria.”

Two of her daughters, who are blind, say they’re well-supported at school and feel set up for success.

“If I compare where I was and where I’m now, it’s a huge achievement … I used to speak English but it wasn’t so good. Now my English is a lot better … My grades are very good,” said Aya Darrouba.

The 16-year-old, like her father, said she feels drawn to helping Afghan refugees who are now beginning a new chapter, just as her family did.

She volunteers with a local settlement agency that’s helping Afghan refugees and, since the pandemic has made it challenging to meet in person, recently helped it make a video offering advice to the newcomers.

“I just tried to make them feel at home,” she said of the video. “I told them your first days in Canada will be difficult but you will get used to the country.”

The federal government has committed to resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees, with 3,625 now in Canada, including about 80 in Peterborough, according to government data.

Marwa Khobie, executive director at the Syrian Canadian Foundation, said Syrian refugees are well placed to help the Afghan refugees who started arriving in Canada in the last few months.

Her organization, which is based in Mississauga, Ont., launched a campaign this week to raise money for Afghan newcomers and connect them with 100 Syrian refugees.

“Now that Afghan refugees have arrived, it was kind of a way to refresh our memories and remember what we went through five years ago,” she said.

“Many Syrian newcomers were actually asking and telling us: ‘How can we support Afghan refugees? What can we do? How can we meet them?'”

Her organization has partnered with four other groups that are supporting Afghan refugees to provide opportunities for now-settled Syrian refugees to help the newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area, she said.

Khobie said the campaign, called From Syria to Afghanistan, will also have a positive impact on Syrian refugees.

Sharing their success stories, remembering what they went through – this is a way to empower Syrian newcomers and Afghan refugees at the same time,” she said.

“For Afghan refugees, we want them to feel welcomed here in Canada, a sense of belonging, knowing that they’re not alone in the community, and everybody is willing to support in every way possible.”

Source: Syrian refugees who now call Canada home look to help Afghan newcomers