Canada's Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

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To what extent did Canada provide a warm welcome to Syrian refugees, in comparison to their previous responses in Canadian history?


Megan BravoSocials 11Term Paper Socials 11In comparison to the history of Canadas response to previous refugee crises, to what extent does their response to the current Syrian refugee crisis embody the welcoming Canadian identity? In March 2011, the uprising of the Syrian civil war began, leaving millions of innocent citizens of the country to be caught in the midst of an ongoing conflict. The war has so far injured thousands and caused the deaths of over 250,000 people and these dangers have forced an estimated 9 million Syrians to flee their own country and seek refuge in others, including Canada. Canada has a long history of responding to refugee crises, including a few poor reactions but also many inviting responses, but the countrys reputation of being a nation of friendliness and warm welcomes is based upon this history. The Canadian government, with the support of the citizens, have worked hard and continue to do so to accommodate those affected by the Syrian crisis in order to restore the hope for their futures, especially for the families, children and single women, by welcoming them into Canada. The eagerness to help that the majority of Canadians have shown towards the Syrian refugees embodies the national identity of being a country of welcoming attitudes and the diverse nature of the nation. Through comparing the historical Canadian experiences dealing with refugees to the current response of the refugees from Syria, the countrys improvement is evident as they continue to strive towards maintaining this identity. Canadas history regarding previous refugee crises is what the current countrys welcoming identity is based upon. The country of today is considered a safe haven for the oppressed and a nation of acceptance and diversity. Throughout the 1900s into the 2000s, their responses have significantly improved towards greeting all in need of homes and accommodating them into their country. In the earlier years of Canadian history, the government responded poorly to refugee crises and excluded specific racial or religious groups due to the rising racist ideas amongst the citizens at the time. Despite the countrys current diverse population, people of colour didnt receive the acceptance that Canadians are known for today as the government excluded many from settlement after implementing an Order in Council that specifically omitted immigrants of any Asiatic race. Armenians were placed in this category and those that were seeking new homes from the dangers in Turkey were refused admittance. Due to these strict limitations, only the low amount of 1,300 Armenians were accepted to resettle into the country between the World Wars. Placing this law against immigrants of a specific race shows harsh discrimination which opposes the Canadian culture of equality and acceptance of everyone, including all ethnicities. Another example of a poor response towards refugees seeking resettlement was against the Jews aboard the St Louis ship in 1938 preceding the Second World War. The ship was full of Jews attempting to escape Hitlers anti-Semitism government but due to being rejected by Cuba, United States, Argentina, Paraguay, Panama and Canada, they were forced to return to Europe and most of the passengers were detained in Nazi concentration camps leading to their deaths. During this period, because of popular opinion, the anti-Semitism movement arose in Canada among the public and the government, leading to the countrys decision of refusal of these refugees. Out of the 800,000 Jews that were seeking refuge from the oppression they received from Hitlers dictatorship, Canada only took in 4,000 refugees during his reign in Germany. These previous incidences have left a permanent scar upon Canadas reputation, however their responses have improved along the years as towards the end of the 1900s, the government became more welcoming and accepted a higher amount of refugees, including those fleeing from the Hungarian Anti-Soviet revolution. Current Canadian citizen, Frank Palmay shared his personal experience in a The Star news article of fleeing Hungary as a young boy and settling into Canada with his family. Canada and Venezuela were the only two countries accepting refugees at this time and Palmay says hes forever grateful for his parents decision of choosing to settle in Canada. He described how eager and willing the government was to accommodate them into their country. Palmay says, Canada has a history of welcoming those seeking refuge. They, in turn, have helped to build Canada into a highly regarded and admired nation, as he praises the countrys efforts towards helping refugees. In 1986, the people of Canada received the Nansen Award, which according to the UN Refugee Agency website, honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced, because of the countrys constant contribution to the cause of refugees within their country and around the world. Canada is the only country to be honoured with this award as it is usually given to an individual or group, but this exception shows the Canadian citizens extraordinary unity towards helping refugees. Compared to their responses to the refugees in the early 1900s, Canadas achievements of this award towards the end of the centennial demonstrate their progression as a nation from previous incidents. The growing improvement regarding refugee crises among Canadians, with the leadership of the government, is what led towards the warm welcome they have shown and continue to do so to the Syrians who have arrived or are in the process of approval. The government of Canada has shown immense hard work towards resettling as many possible Syrians into the country ever since the power went to the Liberals from the hands of the Conservatives. Prior to the October federal election of 2015, the Conservative government, represented by the countrys Immigration Minister at the time, Chris Alexander, announced that the party decided that the 10,000 refugees expected to arrive by 2018, are to be settled in Canada by September 2016. They were focused on mainly helping Syrians that have been persecuted due to religion; this specific and therefore limited group of people demonstrating the partys discrimination against those that arent religious or oppressed because of it. After the October federal election in 2015, won by majority government of the Liberals, the party kept their promise of allowing 25,000 Syrian refugees to settle into Canada with financial and security aid. However this was promised to be taken place by the end of 2015, but the Liberals admitted this wasnt possible and extended their plan to February 29, 2016. Although the plan had been lengthened, this will enable all security and medical screening to be completed abroad and will allow refugees to arrive in Canada as Permanent Canadian Residents, as explained by the organization of Lifeline Syria.On November 9, 2015, the government created a new committee, consisting of nine Cabinet ministers, with the goal of fulfilling their promise of settling 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada. As of January 14 in early 2016, there have been roughly around 11,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada, 5,500 with finalized refugee applications and 14,500 with applications in progress; overall dealing with approximately 31,000 Syrians about a month and a half away from their promised date of 25,000 Syrian refugee resettlements in Canada. As well as putting their plan into action by fulfilling their promises internationally, the government officials have also shown sincere hospitality as the Syrians arrived in Canada; including the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself single-handedly welcoming the first group of refugees at the Toronto Pearson airport on the night of December 10, 2015. Along with Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, both gave gifts of winter jackets, snow pants and even teddy bears for the young children. The government showed an increase of eagerness and willingness to reach out to the Syrian refugees in the midst of the conflict when the Liberals gained political power, previously held by the Conservatives. As well as enforcing and fulfilling their plans, they personally have shown genuine care and hospitality towards the refugees through their personal greetings. The level of engagement the government displays and their enthusiasm to help the Syrian refugees sets an example to not only the Canadian citizens, but also to other countries around the world. The citizens of Canada have also responded willingly to those in need and affected by the Syrian crisis. From donating money and opening the doors to their country and their own homes, Canadians have outstretched many helping hands in order to provide assistance to the Syrian people and help change their future, especially for the children and growing families. Listed on the Global Affairs of Canada website, it states that to date, Canada has committed over $969 million in humanitarian, development and security assistance in response to the Syrian crisis, showing the countrys efforts in monetary form. This positive response embodies Canadian identity of a welcoming country, especially one that promotes diversity throughout the citizens of their nation; clear through the invitation to the Syrians in need. The Canadian citizens have shown a welcoming response through social media, greeting those that have landed at their local airports and even opening the doors to their houses to accommodate newcomers. On social media, Canadians generally shared their excitement and welcoming attitudes towards their new neighbours on Twitter using the Liberal partys hashtag, #WelcomeRefugees. However, there have been negative attitudes that have risen but these are treated as an individuals outlook rather than the nations stand towards the refugees. An individual hate crime that occurred was a recent attack on the night of January 8, 2016 on the streets of Vancouver as


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