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Mission accomplished for refugees? Think again

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OP-ED

by Candice Malcom

Toronto Sun
May 13, 2016

In 2003, US President George W. Bush hosted a televised news conference from a naval ship to give an update on the war in Iraq. The USS Abraham Lincoln had just returned from a successful mission in the Persian Gulf, and Bush stood in front of a large banner reading “Mission Accomplished.”

Bush announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. The US and its allies had prevailed.

Unfortunately, the situation in Iraq rapidly deteriorated following the “Mission Accomplished” speech. An insurgency accelerated and the Americans were drawn into complicated and bloody guerrilla war.

The “Mission Accomplished” gaffe came to represent Bush’s missteps in a terrible war that would continue to cause death and destruction for another decade. The vast majority of military and civilian casualties came after this address.

The mission was anything but accomplished, and Bush was ridiculed for putting the cart before the horse and dressing up failures as successes.

In an unintentional bit of irony, while testifying before a House Committee on Thursday, immigration minister John McCallum said the Trudeau government’s Syrian refugee program is “largely mission accomplished now.”

As thousands of Syrian refugees are struggling and relying on food banks, before any of them have integrated into our society, found jobs, learned our culture or mastered the local language, our immigration minister is celebrating the success of his program.

The same committee also learned that the Syrian refugee program had blown through its original $250 million budget and is expected to spend another $830 million. That doesn’t include provincial or municipal costs.

We also learned that Canada has only admitted nine Yazidi families among the Syrian refugees.

Rather than prioritizing the most persecuted minority groups – the Assyrian Christians or Yazidis who have been the victims of genocide in the hands of Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists – the Trudeau government has mostly brought in majority Sunni Muslims.

And rather than sponsoring refugees through the successful volunteer-sponsorship program, the Trudeau government has insisted on bringing the lion’s share of Syrian refugees through the clunky and bureaucratic government-sponsored program.

That means that thousands of refugees were housed in budget motels, forced to rely on food banks and government bureaucrats rather than volunteers and communities, and left alone to navigate their way in Canada.

The more successful volunteer-sponsorship program has been ignored. More than 9,000 volunteer groups have raised money for Syrian refugees, but are still waiting for the arrival of their sponsored newcomers.

In response to persistent incompetence by the feds, Former Toronto Mayor John Sewell launched a national organization to represent volunteer sponsors of refugees. He claims that the government has collected over $200 million from volunteer groups, without yet matching sponsors with a Syrian family.

Sewell is critical of what he calls the “disarray” in the government’s refugee department. “Frankly, it’s an extraordinary mess,” he said in an interview with the CBC.

The Trudeau government’s rushed refugee resettlement program has been problematic since day one. The heavy lifting lies ahead in working to integrate Syrian newcomers and help them get established in Canada.

McCallum and Trudeau should focus on enabling the volunteers who want to help Syrian refugees, rather than touting false victories and patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

This mission is not yet accomplished. The job is far from over.

Photo: CTV News

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