Let’s get at it

  • November 12, 2015

Justin Trudeau’s promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year end is implausible. Totally ridiculous. Absurd. So let’s roll up our sleeves and make it happen.

Canadians — all Canadians, not just governments and charities — have an opportunity in the weeks leading up to Christmas to quite literally change lives. This is one of those rare peacetime occasions when Canada can unite as a nation for a vital cause that speaks volumes about who we are as a people.

Naysayers grouse that it is logistically impossible to identify, screen, process, transport and house 25,000 men, women and children in less than two months. Sure it sounds nuts. Then again, few believed Canada could rescue 60,000 Vietnamese boat people over a matter of months in 1979. But it happened, and Canada became a better country because of it.

The new minister responsible for immigration and refugees, John McCallum, has put the government plan in motion by assembling a powerhouse cabinet committee backed by at least $100 million to expedite refugee resettlement. The committee will appeal to provincial and municipal leaders, as well as NGOs and others who can help achieve this “firm objective.” That’s all good.

This should be our Christmas gift to the world, a safe home and fresh start to families decimated by war. It is a good match with the Project Hope project of the Archdiocese of Toronto that is raising $3 million to bring 100 refugee families to Canada, and a perfect launch into the Holy Year of Mercy to be christened Dec. 8 by Pope Francis.

Sceptics suggest it will take many months, not weeks, to clear a long list of logistical hurdles, including legitimate security concerns, that stand between Middle East refugee camps and Canadian safe havens. They claim a mass relocation is reckless and will fail. Maybe.

But they are wrong to suggest Canada should retreat from this deadline. People are suffering, winter is coming. There has already been too much foot dragging and paper shuffling. Plans are grand but action is better.

Besides, this initiative won’t be a failure if all 25,000 refugees aren’t here by the new year. But declaring a deadline with clear objectives is essential to mobilizing the resources to immediately launch this grand project. Griping about deadlines is wasted energy. What matters is rescuing these desperate people as fast as humanly possible, and that becomes more feasible if you lay a firm track with a clear finish line.
For that matter, the 25,000 target needn’t be cast in stone. That number was pulled from the thin air of an election campaign. If there is a national will to rescue 25,000, why not find the means and compassion to help even more?

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