It was plain spoken, it was classy, it was the right thing to do. On a beautiful Saturday morning, on a long weekend when most of us would rather not be working, New Democrat MP Paul Dewar put on his suit and along with colleague Helene Laverdiere held a news conference to lay out the NDP position on dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis.
“We have reached out to the government now because we don’t need to wait until October to start this work,” Dewar said.
“Let’s agree on a Syrian refugee co-ordinator right now and put them in charge of a multi-departmental effort to make this happen.”
The NDP plan calls for Canada to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 and 9,000 a year for the next four years.
Part of the NDP plan also calls for helping Canadians privately sponsor refugees to come here and places no cap on how many private sponsorships will be accepted.
Dewar reached back to his own personal past, his mother Marion was mayor of Ottawa in 1979 when like so many communities across Canada, the Boat People from Vietnam spurred people to action. Mayor Dewar helped spearhead 'Operation 4000" to bring 4,000 refugees to Canada from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Churches, community groups, even bowling leagues stepped up to the plate.
Dewar would like to see that happen again.
“Everyone has a role play here,” Dewar told me.
It is good to see the NDP putting forward a plan that is about more than just government action.
“Maybe we need to remind people of this opportunity,” Dewar said about the possibility for private sponsorships.
The Conservatives might be wise to work with Dewar on this and find some common ground. His plan is to applauded.
Yet for all the kudos I can give Dewar on his ideas for dealing with refugees, his party is on the wrong side of a key part of any plan to deal with this crisis, fighting ISIS and like-minded groups that are creating the refugees in the first place.
The NDP, like the Liberals, don’t believe Canada has a role to play in the military coalition led by US President Barack Obama to push back against the Islamic extremists that are rampaging through the region.
Yes, the Kurdi family whose plight sparked so much outrage this past week were from Syria and Canada is not directly involved in fighting that conflict – there are no good guys to back in that fight – but ISIS is part of the problem in Syria and in Iraq where we are fighting.
The refugees filling camps in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan. The ones attempting to get to Europe are not random refugees, they are refugees created by the fighting.
Dealing with this crisis in full requires not only dealing with refugees but also providing humanitarian aid on the group and fighting groups like ISIS.
On Friday Prime Minister Stephen Harper made that point during a campaign stop.
“I do not know for the life of me how you can look at that picture and say ‘Yeah, I want to help that family’ and say walk away from the military coalition,” Harper said. “It’s incomprehensible to me to see an image like that and conclude you do more of one thing and less of another.”
I agree: I don’t know how you look at an image like that and think we should help the refugees but not do what we can to stop the situation creating the refugees.
The Conservatives should reach across the aisle to work with people inside the NDP like Paul Dewar on crafting a refugee action plan that all Canadians can support and be proud of, but the NDP, and the Liberals, need to change course and get on board with the idea that military action is needed.
We cannot move Syria’s 17 million or Iraq’s 36 million to other parts of the world. That is what looking at this as solely a refugee issue would have us do.
What we can do is everything in our power to make that part of the world a little safer and stop the Islamist thugs trying to establish a caliphate in the Middle East.
To do any less would be un-Canadian.
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