03/10/2014 01:10 EDT | Updated 05/09/2014 05:59 EDT

What's the Real Truth About Canada's Refugee System?

Peter Kent's article "The Truth About Canada's Immigration System" has left me quite shocked, beginning with the headline itself. Peter refers to the government's commitment to resettle refugees. He actually means privately sponsored refugees.

Peter Kent's article "The Truth About Canada's Immigration System" published in the Huffington Post March 6, 2014, has left me quite shocked, beginning with the headline itself.

We have two very different systems according to the Canadian laws that persist even under the Harper government. One for immigrants who want to come here for a better life and to boost Canada's economy and one for refugees to whom we have international protection obligations. Mr. Kent's opinions are directed to refugee matters, however, the headline points to a basic failure to understand the distinction.

I have known Peter Kent for many years. He is in fact my MP in Thornhill. We have talked often, most recently this past week at the CJPAC Action Party. Imagine then my surprise when he chose instead of trying to prove his point with facts simply attacked me directly. Now I'm a big boy and Peter can disagree with my position about refugee matters, but why the need for a personal attack? Doesn't this prove my original point that the government prefers to insult rather than debate?

But let's refocus on the facts. Peter refers to the government's commitment to resettle refugees. He actually means privately sponsored refugees. The track record for government assisted refugees is poor. And the privately sponsored refugee process takes a minimum 2.5 and up to 5.5 years. This flies in the face of a December 2011 meeting commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention, in Geneva, Switzerland where the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced: "We pledge to increase the number of refugees we resettle by 20 per cent." It is in fact according to the Canadian Council for Refugees "the second lowest number resettled in over 30 years." (See link above.)

Peter further indicates that the new refugee law does not deter people from seeking protection in Canada. However, Minister Chris Alexander himself recently boasted that claims from Hungary are down by 97 per cent, proving that people have indeed been deterred.

Perhaps, instead of providing distractions, Peter would like to explain his government's lack of commitment to human rights. Last month, the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard University published a study entitled "Accelerating Patterns of Anti-Roma Violence in Hungary." The report concludes that extremist violence against Roma has risen, the government response is inadequate, and this lack of protection has emboldened perpetrators of hate crimes.

Bad enough that our government pretends this isn't happening, but what does the report say about anti-Semitism? Here's an example "The Jobbik Party's anti-Roma and anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions have become increasingly virulent in recent years in Hungary, bolstered by organized paramilitary groups, extremist organizations, and private individuals."

Even more worrisome is the report's conclusion that "Barbara Harff, expert on genocide prevention, shows that in pre-genocidal situations we see the emergence of vigilante groups, increased police brutality, increased military involvement in civil affairs, increased human rights violations and ideological encroachment on judicial decisions."

Hungary is safe for Jews and Roma? Only this week in the Canadian Jewish News, a fellow Huffington Post writer, Avrum Rosensweig wrote poignantly of a Jewish Roma family from Hungary who escaped with their lives following an almost fatal beating by neo-Nazi thugs. Today they are in sanctuary here in Toronto, our government refusing to recognize the danger they and their six-year-old daughter Lulu (also injured in the attack) face if they are deported.

Indeed even children understand this concept and a group of school children have begun a "Free Lulu" campaign hoping to soften the hearts of Peter Kent and his fellow Tories.

If the government truly cares about the Jewish community, both in Canada and abroad, we will need more than a "million dollar photo" in Jerusalem. We will need a commitment to protecting human rights.


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