Letter: Plea to politicians on behalf of Syrian refugees

Although your government’s recent step is in the right direction, it still falls far short of…a “quick and compassionate” response…

Open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leaders of all other political parties:

Re: Asking for an immediate commitment to bring more Syrian refugees to Canada.

We are writing this open letter to you and to the leaders of all federal parties with an appeal for politics and campaigning to be put aside and for the government to take immediate, concrete and generous steps to significantly boost Canada’s response to the mounting Syrian refugee crisis. Although your government’s recent step is in the right direction, it still falls far short of what we would consider a “quick and compassionate” response to this humanitarian disaster.

“The human rights crisis in Syria is global. The staggering refugee crisis it has provoked is global. The solutions must be global. This means it is also Canada’s crisis and we must act generously in response to the growing number of refugees who are faced with the impossible choice of remaining in desperate conditions in refugee camps or of making terrifying journeys and risking their lives to escape endless suffering. We are disappointed with the numbers being considered for resettlement in Canada and strongly encourage the Canadian government to immediately commit to increasing the number of refugees admitted to at least 50,000 by the end of 2016; this number is somewhat arbitrary but intended to make the point that none of the political parties have committed to a large enough number to date.

“In solidarity with Amnesty International we call on our government to urgently take the following steps:

1) Lift obstacles to speedy family reunification such that Syrian refugees with relatives in Canada are able to come immediately and have their cases processed from within the country. We are currently sponsoring a Syrian family of seven, while another five children are still in Syria and Jordan that we are willing to support here.

2) Create a program to immediately resettle a minimum of 25,000 Syrians through government sponsorship, selected on the basis of need.

3) Provide support and encouragement additionally for generous levels of private sponsorship of Syrian refugees for resettlement by removing barriers such as limits on eligibility for health care.

4) On an urgent basis significantly boost financial, human and logistical resources in Canada and abroad, to ensure Syrian refugee cases are processed expeditiously.

5) Make a clear commitment that increased efforts with respect to Syrian refugees will be additional to, and not at the expense of, ongoing government and private resettlement of refugees from other countries.

6) Intensify Canada’s efforts to ensure more effective international action is taken to resolve the conflict and human rights crisis in Syria.

It is past time to act Mr. Harper. Given the urgency and gravity this requires your leadership. Canada must accept its share of responsibility and step up its response. We have the capacity, the experience, the connections, the will and – above all – the responsibility to do so.

Jim Hannah,

Minister, Winfield United Church,

co-signed by 53 members of the congregation


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