Canada Does Good for Refugees, but also Doesn’t?

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

TORONTO, Canada – Canada is known around the world as accepting of immigrants and refugees. Personal stories about the positive experiences immigrants and refugees have in Canada come out every day. Seidu Mohammad, a Ghanaian refugee in Canada is chasing his dream of being a professional soccer player. His team is currently on a winning streak and the pressure is on to keep it going.

Ahmed Hussen prepares for a citizenship ceremony in Toronto. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times

Ahmed Hussen is another refugee who came to Canada from Somalia 25 years ago. He was named immigration czar in January 2017 and is the first refugee to be appointed to the spot.  After coming to Canada, he worked to get himself through college and then law school. He proclaimed “everyday generosity of Canadians … helped me each and every step of the way.”

Hussen continues to promote Canada’s open door policy despite pressure to close the border. This pressure stems from the Canadian refugee processing system being overwhelmed by Haitians who have lined up at a ditch in Champlain N.Y. out of fear of deportation from the United States.

But Hussen is not the only one addressing the refugee problem. While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally welcomed a planeload of Syrian refugees arriving in Canada in December of 2015, by September of 2017, it appears that welcome does not apply to Haitian refugees from the United States.

Trudeau claims “for someone to successfully seek asylum it’s not about economic migration. It’s about vulnerability, exposure to torture or death or being stateless people.”  The turn away of Haitian refugees disagrees with Trudeau’s statement.

Haitian human rights lawyer Patrice Florvilus believes Canada’s claims that “things have returned to normal” in Haiti is not true. Florvilus believes Canada should grant Haitians refugee status, “if Canada wants to become a real beacon for refugees.”

Haitian refugees are not the only ones having trouble getting into Canada. Syrian refugees who can make it to Canada are usually the “richest and most well-educated members of their society” because they are the ones who are able to pay off human smugglers. The political ramifications here do not bode well for Syria.

Typically, refugees who seek asylum in the geographical vicinity of the country they are escaping from return when the conflict ends. But those who travel across oceans do not come back. This means that when the Syrian conflict ends, the country will see a shortage of doctors, dentists and nurses. Essentially, this system of migration is a lottery for the rich and powerful.

While Canada has done plenty of good for many refugees, it may not have truly earned its reputation as an open and inviting place for refugees and asylum seekers.

For further information, please see:

National Post – Why Canada’s refugee policy may actually be doing more harm than good – 8 September 2017

New York Times – In Canada, an Immigration Minister Who Himself Is a Refugee – 6 September 2017

CBC News – Refugee who lost fingers to frostbite chasing soccer dreams – 5 September 2017

The Guardian – Welcoming Haitian refugees to Canada isn’t about generosity but justice – 29 August 2017

Author: Sarah Louise Purtill

is a second-year law student at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL). In addition to being an Impunity Watch News Reporter, she is an Associate Editor for the Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce. Sarah is the Media Managing Editor for Syracuse Law and Civic Engagement Forum as well as the Treasurer for Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity’s Carmody Chapter at SUCOL. She is also serving her second term as a Class Senator for the Student Bar Association at SUCOL. Sarah graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Honors Program in June of 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Minor in History. Sarah expects to graduate with her Juris Doctor from SUCOL in May of 2019.

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