Syria must be hell on earth. Their own government drops barrel bombs on civilian areas. There is a civil war raging between the government, the Free Syrian Army and others. Meanwhile, ISIS controls areas of Syria and terrorizes everyone in their path.
It is no wonder that of 17 million Syrians, over seven million are displaced, of which four million have fled the country. We would all be trying to get out of Syria too if we were in the same situation. It takes a lot to make most people leave their homes, cities and homeland. The astronomical numbers of refugees, the largest since World War II, bears witness to the harshness of the situation civilians in Syria face.
The Assad regime has been brutal for decades, with public hangings on lampposts and tortured killings of children. The civil war which is going on now is the result of years of repression by Bashar Hafez al-Assad, and previously by his father Hafez al-Assad. Syria is no longer just brutal place to live, it is now unliveable.
While the Canadian government has sent the Canadian Air Force to bomb ISIS targets in Syria, Assad’s regime have inflicted far more destruction on its own civilians. The UN commission investigating war crimes reported that the Syrian government is responsible for “the majority of civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily, both from a distance using shelling and aerial bombardment and up close, at its checkpoints and in its interrogation rooms”. So while ISIS grabs the media spotlight and military bombs from Canada, Assad has been continuing its destruction of its own population with no reprisals from the Canadian government.
The four million Syrian refugees face an uncertain future. There are daily reports of refugees dying on their way to Europe to seek asylum. Bodies of little children wash up on Mediterranean beaches. How much their parents must be grieving, after they had gotten their children out of the hellhole of Syria, only to see them drown when their rickety boats capsize.
Canada owes far more to Syrians fleeing for safety than the meagre 10,000 refugees the Harper government has said it would accept. That’s the promise. The actual number is far lower with only a few thousand have actually making it to Canada so far, despite all the Harper government’s posturing. While other countries, like Germany, open their doors ever wider, Canada’s doors are closed
In response to the latest reports on the Syrian refugees this week, CTV News reported Harper’s response was “But I would say repeatedly that, as we are doing more, we cannot lose sight of the fact that refugee resettlement alone cannot solve this problem, as long as we have organizations like ISIS… creating literally millions of refugees.”
Harper’s response is both callous and disingenuous. Callous because, in a humanitarian crisis, the first priority is to look after the needs of the people in jeopardy. This statement lacks compassion for the people fleeing the death and destruction in Syria. Disingenuous because Harper knows as well as anyone that the Assad regime, not ISIS, is the major source of death and terror to the Syrian people.
For compassionate reasons alone, the Canadian government should increase the numbers Syrian refugees it accepts. Syrians have fled their country with nothing, hoping to stay alive, and to begin their life again.
The Canadian government should also accept more than 10,000 refugees because as a country, Canada benefits hugely from those who come here. From 1978 to 1985, 110,000 Vietnamese Boat People came to Canada. These people went on to be productive members of Canada. Syrian refugees would do the same. There is already a well-stablished Syrian-Canadian community in Canada, dating back to 1882.
It is time to open our hearts and our eyes. It is time that the Canadian government shows compassion and lives up to its responsibility to provide a home for more Syrian refugees.