Federal candidates told a forum on refugees Wednesday that they would increase support for Syrians wanting to come to Canada.
“I believe Canada has an obligation to act,” said NDP candidate Megan Leslie. “Time and time again, when there has been a humanitarian crisis, we answer the call with generosity and I do believe it is time for us to answer this call as well.”
The meeting was held at St. Mark’s Anglican Church on Wednesday night and was hosted by the church congregation. The forum intended to open the floor to citizens to discuss refugee issues with Halifax candidates.
Participants included NDP candidate Megan Leslie, Liberal Party candidate Andy Fillmore, Thomas Trappenberg of the Green Party, and Marxist-Leninist candidate Allan Bezanson. Gerry Mills, director of operations at Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia, also participated in the meeting. Conservative candidate Irvine Carvery was unable to attend the meeting due to a previous engagement.
Each candidate provided a different platform, all set on achieving the same goal: increasing Canada’s refugee intake.
Leslie said the NDP would accept 10,000 refugees, as per the United Nations request, and then continue to accept 9,000 refugees per year for the following four years. She said the party would fast-track both the private sponsorship of refugees and the asylum-seeker process.
Fillmore expressed similar goals when he said the Liberal Party would increase Canada’s refugee intake from 10,000 to 25,000 as well as investing $200 million over the course of this year and the next. However, Fillmore emphasized family reunification as a priority.
“We really, collectively need to get back to a compassionate, caring Canada that will open it’s doors and embrace the strength of strong families and of strong unities succeeding together for a better future,” said Fillmore.
Mills echoed this sentiment when she explained that Halifax is currently home to approximately 70-75 Syrian refugees waiting to bring their families here.
Trappenberg said there needs to be immediate action. He suggested employing military planes to bring in refugees to Canada.
Bezanson expressed concerns over Canada’s war involvement and how he believes that this has led to the refugee crisis.
Both Leslie and Trappenberg commented that federal government’s rhetoric surrounding refugees is both problematic and concerning. Leslie also noted that there was a sense of “meanness” and “pettiness” in the Canadian government regarding the refugee crisis.
About 50 people showed up the meeting. Event organizer Kathy Morrell said she expected more attendees.
“I don’t know if that tells you something about priorities of people in general… or if refugees just aren’t high priority in people’s lives,” said Morrell.