There are considerable risks in bringing large numbers of Syrian refugees to Canada without due care. Those risks arise from the fact that these refugees would be chosen from a group that has lived in a part of the world where many have been taught to despise the West, Israel, Jews and Christians and to consider violence an acceptable approach to achieving one’s goals.
And while our hearts naturally go out to the innocents among them, especially the children who are the biggest losers in the Syrian debacle, it is not just children we are looking to include in the 25,000 refugees Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to bringing into Canada over the next short period. It is adults, too, most peace loving and good people, some perhaps not.
The government requires institutions or individuals who wish to adopt a refugee family of four to raise $27,000 to cover first-year costs. Those costs do not include medical and dental care, nor the costs of education and the like. Accordingly, the cost to support a refugee family of four will be many times higher than $27,000 per annum over time. Canadians appear to be open to that investment, but should be made aware of the costs.
Given the moral and now political inevitability of accepting refugees, the question becomes: how can the federal government do so in a way that reduces the risk of discord and danger to Canadian citizens?
We only need to see the impact of massive immigration, poorly managed, in Europe – the costs in terms of dollars, social upheaval, discord, and in some cases death and injury are material and only getting worse. To avoid that outcome, I believe a focus on risk reduction is required. The responsibility of any government is, first, to the security and safety of the people it represents, and only then to humankind in general. This government intends to admit large numbers of refugees – it has an obligation to take our security into account in how it does so.
The government should follow these rules to reduce risk:
1. Don’t be in a hurry. Do the job properly, or don’t do it at all. It benefits no one – and it endangers Canadians – to bring refugees to a new place and cast them adrift without a clear plan of integration.
2. Choose only families with young children. Their children are at the greatest risk, present the least risk, and have the most to gain from a move to Canada.
3. Review the background of adult refugees, including parents, carefully. Look for associations with jihadist or extremist groups. If identity is unclear, avoid those people. Any sense of bad association must eliminate the possibility of admission to Canada.
4. Do not afford refugees the right to bring additional family members to Canada. Let’s not “double up” with a commitment to add to the challenges if things don’t go well. If things go well, those rules can always be relaxed.
5. Ensure that every family is adopted by institutions or individuals. An adopted family is far more likely to be successful in Canada, and therefore happy and productive, not angry and/or violent.
6. Reduce the $27,000 barrier to adopting a family of four. The government should match moneys raised dollar for dollar, in order to achieve the desired outcome of maximizing the number of adopted families.
7. Choose from groups that are most at risk. Yazidis, Christians and Kurds are at the greatest risk, because they are aggressively persecuted by the Muslim majority in many refugee camps.
8. Where refugees are Muslims, ensure they specifically agree to live among Jews and Christians under Canadian, not sharia, law.
We need a refugee program that is sensible, that involves Canadians directly (as was the case with the Vietnamese boat people), that provides government support, and that moves only at a pace which allows for processes that minimize the risk. If we do this properly, Canada can set the example for the world. If we do not, we must hold this government accountable for putting haste ahead of our safety.
Michael Diamond is a business consultant, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He is involved extensively in Jewish and non-Jewish community life and sits on or chairs several boards and committees of a number of non-profit organizations.