As Canada waits for new group of refugees, questions loom

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Sunday that there would be a snap federal election this fall, his speech, like all party...


When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Sunday that there would be a snap federal election this fall, his speech, like all party leaders’ campaign launch speeches, began with another topic: the sudden takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

While the Conservatives’ reluctance to bring Syrians to Canada quickly played a role in the 2015 campaign, there is no partisan twist this time around. In the first week of the campaign, all major party leaders said they supported the effort and pledged to continue to do so if they were to remove Trudeau from power.

Everyone I have spoken with in the refugee aid community expects that, as we have seen with newcomer Syrians, large numbers of Canadians will come together to privately sponsor large numbers of Afghan refugees.

Catherine Rodd, spokesperson for the United Church of Canada, said that even without being asked, about 60 of her congregations have indicated they want to privately sponsor Afghan refugees. Private sponsorships through this church have brought in thousands of Syrians.

But before anyone starts to prepare apartments and organize the school, the Afghans, whose lives may be in danger, still have to leave Afghanistan. On Friday afternoon, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said two huge Royal Canadian Air Force transport planes were airlifting refugees from Kabul.

The rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan does not make it clear how many such flights will be possible, although Mendicino said the government is committed to maintaining “these flights for as long as possible”. The Times coverage of Afghanistan, including a live briefing, here.)

Janet Dench, Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, summed up her meeting this week with government officials about hosting refugees from Afghanistan when she said: “They haven’t taken a lot of food yet. fairly fundamental decisions about it. . “

And there is a long list of decisions to be made. At present, said Ms. Dench, no one knows whether the 20,000 refugees will be people who are currently fleeing or people who have already fled Afghanistan but are stuck in refugee camps elsewhere. The Trudeau government must decide whether it will follow the Syrian precedent of waiving various document rules. It is also unclear whether the government will only accept people referred to it by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a potentially lengthy process, or whether it will try other channels and perhaps focus – it on people with any connection to Canada.

Importantly, no one has yet said how many of the 20,000 refugees will be privately sponsored rather than government resettled.

Ms Dench said it was likely there would be a role for private sponsors again. But she and others warned that unless policies change, these sponsors will face a heavier bureaucratic burden this time around, including “explaining exactly what they have in place for the people who arrive ”.

The result, she said, is that some sponsors may be reluctant to re-enlist for fear of being “just overwhelmed by the government demanding all kinds of documentation and justifications that it did not do in the past. the past”.

In Quebec, who has unique powers over immigration, it seems that private sponsors will play no role. Flore Bouchon, the press secretary to the Minister of Immigration and International Relations, said the province had temporarily suspended private sponsorships by organizations, and that the deadline had passed for this year for applications from groups of two to five people. She said the province was committed to receiving Afghans, but that they “will be helped by the government.”

Another issue is also at stake. Karen Cocq, campaign coordinator at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, told me that there are already Afghans whose asylum claims have been refused or whose asylum claims have been refused. immigration status is not properly documented for other reasons. In most cases, she said, these people appear to have a legitimate claim but have been turned down for arbitrary reasons, often involving red tape. The current crisis, Ms. Cocq said, means it is now necessary to find a way for them to stay in Canada.

“Arbitrary administrative demands and treatment demands do not adequately recognize the conditions people find themselves in and the realities of people fleeing conflict and violence,” she said.

Canada, of course, played a major role in NATO’s 20-year war on the Taliban and in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, an effort that now appears to have been swept aside. Its cost was terrible. Of the 40,000 soldiers who served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2014, 158 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have died. Among the other dead in Canada were seven civilians, including a diplomat, four aid workers, a government contractor and a journalist. Thousands of soldiers returned home with physical and mental injuries, and many of them are still recovering.

Roger Cohen, a former Opinion columnist for the Times who joined the news side, wrote a thoughtful article analysis how and why the mission went so badly.

[Read: For America, and Afghanistan, the Post-9/11 Era Ends Painfully]


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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Newsrust - US Top News: As Canada waits for new group of refugees, questions loom
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