Prioritization of Equal Treatment of Refugees in Canada - Updated
Initial letter released on October 12, 2022
March 8, 2023
Re: Meeting with members of Parliament
Since releasing the Prioritization of Equal Treatment of Refugees in Canada letter on October 12, 2022, and meeting with some members of Parliament, the number of people forcibly displaced has increased from 100 million indicated by the UNHCR in 2022. Growing at an alarming rate, this was already a jump from the recorded 89.3 million in 2021. An additional 15 million people from Turkey and 5.3 million people from Syria have been affected by the earthquakes, resulting in 1.7 million Syrian refugees. Canada’s response to this humanitarian crisis cannot be overlooked.
As part of the Refugee Next Door campaign, a project of Labour Community Services and Toronto & York Region Labour Council, our goal is to raise awareness on the plight of refugees, counter anti-refugee sentiments and fight racism. A trend that we have observed on refugee selection and relocation to Canada is the attention, ease of processing and resources some refugees get more than others.
The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel has significantly prioritized the entry of Ukrainian refugees to Canada over other refugees, specifically from Afghanistan. The latest data from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada says 28,285 Afghans have arrived in Canada under all immigration streams, out of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s initial 40,000 promise in 2021.
Projected wait times are approximately 24 months for refugee claims and 12 months for refugee appeals, but Canada’s elimination of normal visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees approved 559,868 Ukrainian applications out of the 862,386 received. A year later since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, just over 167,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada. Canada should of course open up our doors to refugees from the horrible war in Ukraine but should also apply the same principle to refugees from all parts of the world such as the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.
While Canada aims to welcome just over 1.4 million permanent residents between 2023-2025 (225, 170 targeted to be refugees and protected persons), Canada’s immigration backlog sits at just over 2 million applications (more than 100,000 refugees.) As seen with the response to Ukrainian refugees, Canada has room to improve the processes for all refugees. Our common humanity and respect for human rights dictates that we do just that. Seeking refuge from harm is a basic human right.
Myths about refugees persist which fuel ideas of prejudices, mistrust and alienation of refugees. Some common myths include:
- There are too many Refugees: Canada has just about 4 refugees per 1,000 population, compared to more than 20 refugees per 1,000 in many other countries. Turkey is home to 12 times as many refugees as Canada. Canada hosts only about 1% of the world’s refugees.
- Refugees are dependent: Refugees who are actually employed have incomes on par with economic immigrants, very much contradicting the notion that refugees act as a drain for taxpayers and the economy.
- Refugees increase crime: In just about every country, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the people who were there before them.
The labour movement has a strong and proud history of fighting these prejudices and supporting the relocation of refugees to Canada. Refugees have made Canada stronger; economically and morally.
Our goal is to continue meeting with members of Parliament to further discuss the work of the Refugee Next Door campaign to keep the needs of refugees top of mind for Canadians. We would like to set up a meeting with you at your earliest convenience. If you have any questions or would like to connect with us, please email [email protected].
Refugee Next Door Campaign Committee
Faduma Mohamed, Executive Director, Labour Community Services
Andria Babbington, President, Toronto & York Region Labour Council
Lily Chang, Secretary Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress