Should the Trudeau Liberals rethink their plan for Syrian refugees?

A basic security check should confirm the vast majority of those would-be Canadians are genuine refugees in desperate need of resettlement

A Syrian refugee family is seen on a beach moments after arriving on a raft on the Greek island of Lesbos, November 10, 2015. Since the start of the year, over 590,000 people have crossed into Greece, the frontline of a massive westward population shift from war-ravaged Syria and beyond. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RTS6A2F

A Syrian refugee family is seen on a beach moments after arriving on a raft on the Greek island of Lesbos, November 10, 2015. Since the start of the year, over 590,000 people have crossed into Greece, the frontline of a massive westward population shift from war-ravaged Syria and beyond. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Ahmad al Mohammad—if that’s indeed his real name; no one’s certain just yet—died a suicide bomber, blasting himself to pieces outside France’s national soccer stadium on Friday night. Three days later, the photo ID he left behind at the crime scene has proven almost as damaging as his bomb.

Perhaps he planned it that way.

Lying near Mohammad’s mangled body, investigators found a Syrian passport that chronicled a refugee’s journey through Greece, Croatia and eventually to France—proof, it appeared, that the so-called Islamic State had exploited the migrant crisis to smuggle an operative into the West. The terrorist group had long warned of deploying such a tactic, and security experts had every reason to fear such a claim could come true. (It’s a “huge concern,” James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, conceded earlier this year.)

The passport fallout was as swift as it was predictable. Poland announced it would no longer accept Syrian refugees, while more than a dozen U.S. governors spoke out against President Barack Obama’s plan to welcome 100,000 asylum-seekers from the region. And in Canada—where new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains adamant about fulfilling a key campaign promise to bring in 25,000 Syrians by the end of the year—opposition is mounting.

Leading the post-Paris chorus is Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who released a letter on Monday, urging the PM to suspend his 25,000-refugee plan, pending more robust security checks on every potential newcomer. “I understand that the overwhelming majority of refugees are fleeing violence and bloodshed and pose no threat to anyone,” Wall wrote. “However, if even a small number of individuals who wish to do harm to our country are able to enter Canada as a result of a rushed refugee-resettlement process, the results could be devastating.”

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume echoed that sentiment. “Let us open our hearts to human distress,” he wrote on his Facebook page, “but not to the detriment of security.”

The Liberals have just 46 days left to make good on their ambitious promise and, as each hour ticks by, Canadians continue to wait for the actual plan to emerge. About all we know for certain, compliments of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, is that some of the security screening could take place on Canadian soil—after the refugees arrive. As Wall wonders, along with many others, why the rush? If it takes until February or March to conduct all the proper checks overseas, why not nudge back the arrival date in the interest of due diligence?

“The recent attacks in Paris are a grim reminder of the death and destruction even a small number of malevolent individuals can inflict upon a peaceful country and its citizens,” his letter continues. “Surely, we do not want to be date-driven or numbers-driven in an endeavour that may affect the safety of our citizens and the security of our country.”

Fair argument? Perhaps. But whichever way you’re leaning, remember this: No system of security checks, no matter how robust, comes with a 100 per cent guarantee. CSIS and the RCMP could spend the next year screening those 25,000 applicants, and one or two may still turn out to be ISIS sympathizers, if not full-fledged fighters. “Is it possible that one [terrorist] is going to come through? Absolutely,” says Phil Gurski, a longtime strategic analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and an expert on Islamic extremism. “You can’t expect perfection from our security and law-enforcement agencies. But this country was built on immigration, and saying we can’t [bring in refugees] because of an attack on Paris is unjustified.”

Related: Maclean’s obtains copy of internal planning document for Liberals’ refugee plan

Remember, too, where these 25,000 refugees will come from. They won’t be selected from the many hundreds of thousands of migrants who have made their way to Europe, such as Ahmad al Mohammad (or whoever he is). They will be handpicked from Jordan or Lebanon or Turkey—and only after being identified by the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, as the absolute most vulnerable. “We are talking about women with children, families without fathers anymore, people who have been victimized by violence,” says Furio De Angelis, the UNHCR’s representative in Canada. “If we have a young mother with a small child, and people are saying there is a connection with terrorists, it’s a bit irrational. We have to be careful not to get carried away with the emotions of this terrible moment. Confusing the victims with the perpetrators of the violence who create the victims is not logical.”

In other words, it shouldn’t require much more than a basic security check to confirm that the vast majority of those would-be Canadians are genuine refugees in desperate need of resettlement. “We’re talking about 25,000, but you could come up with 200,000 who would still fall under that category,” says Peter Showler, the former chair of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. “You may not be able to point out certain people who are definitely jihadists, but you can definitely point out tonnes of people who are not. They are so obvious.”

As obvious as Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose little drowned body horrified the world in early September. How quickly things can change.

Michael Petrou reports on refugees just outside Paris:


Should the Trudeau Liberals rethink their plan for Syrian refugees?

  1. NO

    And this is the fourth time this story has been posted here.

    Canadians are quite happy to help refugees.

    So stop it.

    • The TV reporters in particular seem to think they can use this story to take Trudeau down a notch.

      • Yeah Trudeau’s been in..what? 3 weeks tops?…..and already the reporters ……who don’t have either the responsibility……or the inside intelligence….. are trying to backseat drive.

        It’s just filler to hit a deadline….not any knowledgeable well-thought-out… comment

    • Ditto: I’ve already made the same complaint to CBC. Enough is enough! Fear mongering and veiled prejudice is neither news nor fair comment. CSIS alone has 25,000 operatives that might be useful. Now if Canadian media security checking could keep CPC operatives out of their midst.

  2. NO

    2 Canadians killed in terrorist attacks in 10 years-Conservative response-suspend or delay refugee claims and spend $12.9 billion on security.

    78,000 Canadians will die this year alone from cancer.


  3. NON We lose every time there is capitulation by reacting in this manner. We lose by escalating force because this is what they want as well. Yes, we run the risk of incidents occurring as in France but even if infiltration is effected they will not achieve the good in numbers we will achieve for future generations. We must “strategize” and “out think” them. Like the evil Sith Lords of Star Wars they will only grow stronger when fueled by hate. And if we wish to depose the psychopath of Syria we do not help that cause by victimizing them further. Our F-18s are only 6; compared to 100s of US + French planes. Ramping that up and the game remains the same

  4. I was listening on the radio last night to an interview with an immigration lawyer. He has been in the business for over 20 years and his basic position was that if it is possible to accept 25,000 immigrants in 46 days, then everything that they have known about the immigration process over the past 30 years is not true. He went on to say that we won’t possibly be able to admit these refugees with the same standards as our normal practice.

    Now, this is just one man’s opinion and who knows, he could be just another bitter Conservative angry about the election results. On the other hand, he does raise an important question that the Liberals have been very vague in addressing. What will be done differently with these 25,000 refugees that will allow the process to fast tracked without sacrificing security? I don’t think you need to have an ulterior motive in order ask this question.

    • Hooey: an average 250,000 immigrants per year works out to 32,000 every 46 days. One may note that the current CPC immigration critic has just ‘discovered’ a huge backlog of refugees previously cleared by the Harper government.

  5. The only area where I’m OK with some flexibility is on the date. I don’t care if it takes an extra month or two to hit the target number, but with proper checks and whatnot, we can afford to take in many more than just 25,000. I’d be happy if we greatly exceeded that number over the next year or so.

    • Not this cat. Leave them there to rot. Cant and will not defend themselves. Will not fight for their own freedom but will gladly take a handout from Justin lets all get along bleeding heart sit around the campfire and sing songs Trudeau in the form of my hard earned tax dollars. No sir, stay away and fix your own country instead of coming here and affecting mine. All of them go away we are full……start taking care of our own first , not handing out citizenships like candy. I didnt vote for this, I do not agree with it, Trudeau go away.

  6. I am sure that the government in wanting to bring 25K refugees is not going to let them go wherever they want. They are going to be housed in army barracks for a while. There have been some families that have already been checked and have sponsors. It was just the previous government was holding some of them back for whatever reason. But having said that I would not put it past Daesh to use some nefarious plan to have some of their crazy followers impersonate a family or use kids to get into western countries. I would do DNA test to confirm the family relation on all refugee families.

    • The majority of refugees most in need after being bombed out of their homes, trekking the wilderness and languishing in a refugee camp are likely not too choosy. It’s a high degree of hubris to suggest that many would even know where Moose Jaw is, or Canada, 0.4% of the world’s people, for that matter. How about we just worry about how we can help them find a place to participate in Canadian society.

  7. Multiculturalism is a hyper-theory (There is no such thing).

  8. Multiculturalism is a hyper-theory (There is no such thing).

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