A bad time to have a stubborn leader

Harper’s promise to bring another 10,000 refugees needs to happen now

With an est. 83,000 refugees, the Zaatari camp in Jordan supports nearly as many Syrians as there are people in Kamloops. (U.S. State Dept.)

With an est. 83,000 refugees, the Zaatari camp in Jordan supports nearly as many Syrians as there are people in Kamloops. (U.S. State Dept.)

The middle of an election is a bad time for a leader to be stubborn. But nonetheless, he is. Stephen Harper made a campaign promise before the election call that if his party was re-elected to government, he would bring another 10,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq to Canada.

With recent events, however, as three-year-old Alan Kurdi tragically washed ashore and was set to end up in Canada, everyone has started asking, “Why wait?”

He made the campaign promise on Aug. 10, which might seem like a long time ago with how quickly the refugee crisis has come to light. But really, the crisis isn’t new at all. In 2013, the Conservative government said it would settle 1,300 Syrian refugees before the end of 2014. It didn’t do that until March of 2015, however, and now it feels like they’re starting that slow process all over again, this time with a much larger goal and no more urgency to complete it.

Meanwhile, rallies and protests calling for faster action on the matter have broken out all over Canada. The rallies were held under the banner “Refugees Welcome,” and appeared in Van­couver, Calgary, Toronto, Regina, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Montreal and more.

But the Conservative govern­ment has rarely been one that reacts to protests or the perceived will of the majority. Another good example of this is how the government stubbornly refuses to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The pressure has been steady and growing, and yet its haunting presence doesn’t even warrant a whisper on the Conser­vative campaign trial.

Going back to the refugee crisis, there’s another example that shows a government refusing to respond to the will of the majority. An internal poll conducted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on Oct. 14, 2014, revealed that 62 per cent of Canadians agreed that refugee claimants should receive the same health care as Canadian citizens. Confining the responses to those between the ages of 18 and 24, the number shoots up to 81 per cent in agreement.

There are certainly dissenting opinions. News site comment sections are filled with calls to keep refugees out of Canada, especially those from the Middle East. Even the biggest proponents of accepting more refugees will admit that a mass intake means more risk of bringing extremists into Canada, but there are few who are asking for the slow trickle we have now to turn into wide open floodgates. The system in place should be able to accom­modate more. And if it doesn’t, it should be scaled up to do so.

The issue certainly won’t sway Harper’s base of voters, but undecided voters are going to have a hard time seeing anything positive that Harper is doing on the matter. They’ll have to look at these rallies, see more of these heartbreaking images, hear more of these heartbreaking stories, and look at a leader who will only act if he’s re-elected, as if the fate of thousands is just another piece of electoral leverage.