The Syrian refugee crisis is a tragedy of nearly unparallelled proportions. So, the Conservative government originally made a goal to bring in 1,300 people. Unfortunately, they missed their goal because they insisted on privatizing the whole process by requesting that private sponsors help foot the bill - this is code word for churches.
See, the only private groups that can step in in any reasonable number to bring in refugees just happen to be religious groups. Anyway, it didn't work.
When the government first committed to accepting 1,300 Syrian refugees, only 200 were supposed to have been government-assisted. However, Canada ended up more than doubling that number and sponsoring 434 refugees when not enough private sponsors came forward quickly enough.Now the government could have easily sponsored these refugees itself, but the privatization of this process had two effects which must have been appealing to the Conservatives. Firstly, it appeals to the whole idea of economic privatization (they love that) and secondly - although CFI Canada is trying - the only groups who are currently in a position to be private sponsors just so happen to be churchers ... mainly Christian ones.
These 434 were referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and therefore were not selected based on religion or ethnicity.
"Maybe the government looked at this and concluded it was churches who are best organized to do private sponsorship. Thus, since the government is putting emphasis on ... private sponsorship rather than UNHCR refugees sponsored by the government, maybe they told themselves, 'They're mostly Christians,"' suggested Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR).Of course, the Harper government doesn't care one bit what groups like this think. They are playing up to their evangelical and Christian base. Because the UNHCR does not consider the religion of the refugees when determining their need, the government is turning to churches to bring over as many (just so happen to be Christian) refugees as possible.
Last December, the CCR and other organizations denounced Ottawa's intention to privilege certain refugees on the basis of religion.
"This type of practice runs counter to fundamental principles of refugee protection," said CCR president Loly Rico. "The refugees must be selected for resettlement on the basis of need."
They just raised their new goal to 10,000 refugees this year.
The Conservative government is counting on private sponsorship to ensure that the 10,000 Syrian refugees it has promised to accept between now and next September will be first and foremost Christians, Druze, Kurds and other minorities it wishes to prioritize.According to the article, only 1,100 refugees have made it over so far this year. The pace needs to pick up if the government really cares about making their goal and helping people based on their needs rather than on their creeds.
"If an established group decides to sponsor a Muslim, nothing in the law allows the government to not take up the file or to refuse it because the person is the wrong religion," said Dench.Naturally, atheists in Syria are at terrible risk - within their country and in many of the countries in the Gulf region. They also are not the right religion.