Image: courtesy of cbc.ca
Canada promises to accept unlimited numbers of applications for resettlement. But can we deliver on the promise, and with what consequences?
War in Ukraine
Like the majority of Canadians, I am appalled by what is happening in Ukraine. Consdier, the wanton destruction of civilian apartments and other non-military targets. Also, the senseless and criminal attack on a nuclear power plant. And, the hundreds of thousands of refugees.
The Russian dictator has read the play-book of the late 1930s in Europe. He knows no sense of decency or compassion. Therefore, we applaud and cheer on the brave citizens of Ukraine who risk their lives to defend their country, against what seem hopeless odds.
David and Goliath
It reminds me of the Biblical story of the young David who faced off against the giant Goliath, with only a slingshot and a stone. David won, against the odds. And, as we watch from afar, we hope and pray that Ukrainian citizens will prosper against the Russian Goliath.
And that is why we support, and believe that it’s necessary for, our federal government to have announced that Canada will accept Ukranian refugees to this country. That announcement is that Canada will accept an unlimited number of applications for temporary or permanent settlement. These applications will be, to use the official term, expedited.
Three humanitarian crises since 2015
This is the third humanitarian refugee crisis that Canada, and the world, have responded to since 2015. Syria, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine. In the coming days or weeks, we can expect Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to appear at Pearson Airport in Toronto. There, they will welcome the first plane-load of refugees from Ukraine. But what then?
How many of the promised 40,000 Syrian refugees still remain outside Canada, often in squalid refugee camps. They wait for Canada to process their paperwork? Also, what about the Afghani translators and other helpers of Canadian service people whom we abandoned last year? After waiting since 2014, when Canada finished its mission in Kandahar. Who wait in terror that the Taliban will discover their hiding places.
Promises made; goals not reached
Our federal government excels in making extravagant promises. But the reality is that we fail to meet our lofty goals. At least, not in a timely way. As I gaze into my crystal ball, I see two likely outcomes, neither of them good, of the promise to resettle an unlimited number of Ukrainian refugees expeditiously.
The first is that the federal bureaucracy will be unable to handle to expected deluge of applications in a timely manner. After the initial ‘meet and greet’ at the airport, the rate of arrivals will slow to a trickle. This will cause much disappointment among the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.
Alternatively, even if less likely, the resettlement process will proceed quickly and efficiently. But that would cause a different problem. Syrians and Afghanis come from the general area of the Middle East. They are majority Muslim and have brown skins. As we in Canada continue to try to erase racist attitudes, it would look extraordinarily bad if we managed to resettle large numbers of Ukrainians who are uniformly of European background, white skinned, and of a nominally Christian heritage.
Some more equal than others
In the 1945 satirical book Animal Farm, the farm animals take over a farm to set up an animal utopia. It has the slogan ‘All Animals are equal’. However, when a hierarchy emerges, someone nefariously writes. “But, some are more equal than others.” It would be a tragedy if Canada were to discover one day, that among refugees, some refugees are more equal than others.
I therefore end with this prayer.
“Compassionate God, you look with grief at the way that your human creation mismanages the world that you gave into our care. In these days of war in Ukraine, we ask for your comfort and protection on all who must flee their homes. May we, and others, be compassionate in our turn and willing to help all those who have had to abandon their homes and possessions. Be with, we pray, all those who have taken up arms in the defence of freedom for their homeland. And, unpopular as it may sound right now, be with all the young Russian conscripts who also risk their lives in a war that they did not instigate. Because in time of conflict, it is always the least powerful who have to bear the heaviest costs. Amen.”