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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

MP John Barlow weighs in on refugee issue


Foothills MP John Barlow

As Canadians, we expect our Government to step up in difficult times to help those who are most vulnerable, those who are most in need and those who are in danger - at home and abroad.

Over the past several days, many Foothills residents have called the riding offices, sent in emails or stopped me on the street to ask: "In the wake of what occurred in Paris are we still going ahead with bringing in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year? Are we still pulling our CF-18 fighters out of Syria?”

Our new Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau, has confirmed he is moving ahead with his plan to bring in 25,000 refugees by Dec. 31, 2015 and withdraw our CF-18s from the coalition's military action against ISIS despite the recent attacks in Paris and Beirut.

There is no question Canada needs to play a humanitarian role in this refugee crisis and I do not think any Canadian would argue that fact.

However, I strongly believe Mr. Trudeau must delay his proposal to expedite the resettlement of 25,000 refugees in Canada and reassess his decision to pull Canadian CF-18 fighters out of Syria.

This is not a partisan issue; rather I believe an issue of this magnitude must be discussed openly and frankly among elected Members of Parliament from across Canada. Each and every one of us was elected to voice the concerns of our constituents. Residents in Foothills are extremely concerned about the decisions being made regarding refugees and our military without debate within the House of Commons.

No one is saying Canada should do nothing to help the women, children and families fleeing the bloodshed in Syria and Iraq as a result of the Islamic State (ISIS). However, Canadians are asking action be taken in a measured and calculated way to ensure we are helping the most vulnerable and to ensure a robust framework is in place to accommodate the refugees who do come to Canada.

Parliament sits in the first week of December and it would be prudent of the Prime Minister to delay a decision on the refugees until it can be discussed within the House of Commons. Sober second thought and debate will ensure we approach this mission with appropriate and sound action. It will assure Canadians their serious concerns were part of the decision process.

As Parliamentarians, I believe we agree Canadians want to - and should - shoulder some of the load with our allies around the world when it comes to providing a safe haven for refugees and playing an integral role in the military action against ISIS.

However, the proposal put forward by the current government is reckless as we are not sufficiently prepared to handle the number of refugees in the Government’s arbitrary timeline.

There are important questions which must be answered before we proceed.

Canadians are concerned our Prime Minister has not fully taken into account the wellbeing of the refugees once they arrive in Canada.

How will the refugees be chosen? Who are they? How will they be screened? Where will we house them once they arrive in Canada?

As of now, neither the Prime Minister nor his Minister of Immigration, have been upfront with a plan to process or screen the refugees. We must ensure we have a process in place to ensure potential refugees are not a threat to Canadians. The vast majority of Syrian refugees are not a threat to Canada, and we understand that, but our priority must be the safety and security of our communities.

Once a security plan is established the next step is ensuring sufficient, qualified staff is prepared to carry out that process in a manner which addresses any potential security issues.

A structured security framework is not yet in place and I would argue it simply cannot be put in place within the next 45 days. Therefore, we should not proceed until a robust procedure to screen refugees is defined.

Thousands of refugees will be arriving in Canada in the cold of January without a place to live, without most of the essentials and with little understanding of their new community.

It is imperative, if we want the new Canadians to feel welcome and safe, the infrastructure is in place to house them, clothe them, feed them and take care of the sick.

Canada was built by immigrants and our doors have always been open. And they will remain open.

However, times have changed. The carnage known as Islamic State knows no borders and I would argue it is the most significant threat facing our world perhaps in a generation.

For the safety and security of all Canadians we must do our due diligence before moving forward. I am asking the Prime Minister to have a transparent discussion in Parliament so we can re-evaluate withdrawing our CF-18s from the military coalition in Syria and develop a prudent plan to resettle refugees.

John Barlow
MP Foothills
Depute Foothills

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