Canada’s Restrictive Immigration System Needs to Change so that Lawyers Can Do their Jobs Effectively
It’s a solemn topic, and one that needs to be handled with respect to those who have suffered. But it’s also important to recognize that this is not a new development—this tragedy has been ongoing, and despite the efforts of refugee law offices, desperate families, and activists across our country, very little has been done about the tragedies that our own country has, however indirectly, helped to create. So far, of the 11,300 Syrian refugees that Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has promised to take in, only 2,300 have been accepted for immigration into Canada. This number is 200 shy of the number who have so far drowned attempting to flee to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. 2,500 drownings—including a three-year-old child, Aylan Kurdi.
The photos of Kurdi’s body, washed up on the shores of Turkey, or in the arms of a police officer, have been grotesquely paraded around on front pages and online links, and stirring up shock and outrage and promises by the people who either have or will soon have the power to change Canada’s immigration system. Of course, this refugee crisis is not directly our responsibility. Our joint military operations with the United States and the United Kingdom over the past 15 years have contributed to the conditions that have precipitated this war, but we are not the ones persecuting the Syrian people. However, we can do our part to prevent as many unnecessary deaths as possible. And where the opportunity to save lives exists, shouldn’t it always be taken?
The restrictive measures that have made it harder for refugees to come to Canada did not kill Aylan Kurdi and his family, nor would changing those have necessarily prevented their death, but doing away with these measures could save lives. At the very least it may give a refugee law office the tools it needs to help more people resettle into our borders. Paperwork should not be more important than human lives. A lost passport in a war-torn country should not strip someone of the right to live free from suffering and persecution.
Overhauling Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s restrictive practices in accepting refugees and asylum seekers may indeed become a hot-button issue in the current federal election. Regardless of the outcome in October, it is important that we come together as a country to do our part, calling upon our new Prime Minister and their cabinet and ministers to do everything they can to save as many lives as they can, and to empower refugee law offices to bring more asylum seekers to Canada.
We can do better than we have so far, if we do it together.