09/05/2015 01:18 EDT | Updated 09/05/2016 05:59 EDT

Canada Must Accept More Syrian Refugees: NDP, Liberals

OTTAWA — The New Democrats and Liberals say Canada needs to do more to help alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar says the NDP will reach out to the Conservative government to ask it to adopt an "accelerated plan'' to bring more than 46,000 government-sponsored refugees to Canada by 2019, including 10,000 by the end of 2015.

The NDP plan would involve appointing a Syrian refugee co-ordinator as soon as possible to organize government and departmental resources to facilitate entry and settlement of refugees.

The Liberals, meanwhile, say a Liberal government would expand Canada's intake to 25,000 refugees from Syria through immediate, direct sponsorship by the federal government.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau also says a Liberal government would invest at least an additional $100 million this fiscal year to increase refugee processing, sponsorship and settlement services in Canada.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has said Canada will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years in response to the UN refugee agency's global appeal to resettle 100,000 refugees worldwide.

Dewar said the NDP plan would also include increasing the number of immigration agencies on the ground, expediting private sponsorships with no cap, providing health care and issuing temporary residence permits for Syrians staying with family.

"We have reached out to the government now because we don't need to wait until (after the federal election) to start this work,'' Dewar told a news conference in Ottawa on Saturday.

"We're simply saying, let's work together to make a difference here. And that's why we've been very clear that this is not a partisan issue, and that this is about really doing what Canadians expect us to do.''

Dewar estimated that the NDP plan would cost $74 million to bring 10,000 refugees to Canada by the end of this year, and another $63.8 million to bring in 9,000 each year until 2019.

"Time and time again, Canadians have responded to humanitarian disasters with generosity,'' Dewar said.

"It's money well worth investing. I think most people would understand that.''

He said he doesn't know how Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government will respond, but that Canada can't afford to wait until the federal election is over to start bringing in its share of refugees as outlined by the United Nations.

Dewar said Canada must do more after Francois Crepeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, asked for the resettlement of one million Syrian refugees over the next five years.

Millions have fled war-ravaged Syria since 2011, but fewer than 2,400 Syrians have been resettled in Canada during the last two years, part of an overall commitment to accept 11,300 people.

Dewar's announcement comes in response to global shock over the drowning deaths of two young Syrian boys and their mother, who apparently wanted to join family in British Columbia.

The incident, along with a disturbing photograph of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach, has prompted refugee and human rights advocates to call on the federal government to ease paperwork barriers and boost resources to help Syrian refugees settle in Canada.

How To Help: There are many organizations working hard to help Syrian refugees that want your help. Take a look at the options here.

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