Manitoba First Nations leaders split on Syrian refugees coming into Canada

Two First Nations leaders in Manitoba have opposing views on how the federal government should proceed on plans for allowing refugees into the country.judgement.

Syrian refugee plan 'outrageous' says leader but 'sins of few' shouldn't stop plan says another

Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief David Pashe and Grand Chief of Southern Chief's Organization Terry Nelson

Two First Nations leaders in Manitoba have opposing views on how the federal government should proceed with plans to allow Syrian refugees into the country.

"Are we letting in ISIS people dressed up as refugees? Those are concerns that we have," said Chief David Pashe of Dakota Tipi First Nation.

Pashe says the federal government needs to exercise caution in light of recent events in Europe and hold back on plans to bring in thousands of refugees in just over six weeks. 

"They're trying to allow 25,000 people by end of December. How are you going to clear all these people security-wise?"

On Monday, the new MP for the Portage-Lisgar riding in southern Manitoba expressed on Twitter she was "embarrassed" and "sickened" by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to withdraw warplanes from the fight against ISIS and with his pledge to bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada from Syria by the end of 2015.

While Pashe says Bergen should show more support for First Nations and has not visited his community or other First Nations in the constituency, he says he agrees with her point of view.

"I feel that bringing that amount of people in is outrageous at this time. … That's too quick," he said.

"Justin Trudeau needs to do a little more security clearance checks for these people."

At the same time, another First Nations leader in the province spoke passionately today about welcoming refugees into Manitoba.

"We live in the greatest country in the world. The most peaceful country in the world. We are blessed," said Terry Nelson, Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization, while speaking at an event on restorative justice Wednesday.

"How we react to people that immigrate to this country is how we are judged. Recently events in Europe, Paris, some Muslim people, a very small minority, committed terrorist crimes," he said.  

"It should not impact how we view Syrian people," Nelson said.

David Pashe says it's frustrating to see the government prioritize refugees over First Nations people, who he says need work and housing too.

Pashe says when he became chief of Dakota Tipi First Nation in 2012, he saw a lot of young people not finishing Grade 12. He says he asked the provincial government for funding for upgrading so that they could get training in the trades. He says ministers were supportive of the idea but offered no money to do it.

"But they have all kinds of money to bring in refugees from all other countries. The governments are sending the wrong message to native people by doing that," he said.

And he says an influx of refugees will detract further from resources that could go towards struggling First Nations.

Nelson, on the other hand, says the province's plans to bring refugees in from other countries should not be impacted by events in Europe.

"There's been an invitation for 2,500 Syrian people to be here in Winnipeg," he said.

"They should not be judged. They should not be judged by a small minority of people that are terrorists."

Pashe urges caution.

"Proceed at the rate you were going. Don't throw in a whole pile. We have to learn from other countries like France and Germany who are taking in an abundance of refugees and they don't have housing for them, they don't have jobs for them," he said.

"Put 10 refugees in my reserve, I'm going to say no. Because I don't have the infrastructure for them. I don't have jobs for them. I don't have housing for them," he added.

Nelson said the reason people come to Canada is because here they can be free. He said those who have fled their homes in war-torn countries love Canada because it's peaceful.

"Let's not judge other people who are immigrating here by the sins of a few," he said.

"We need to show the best that we are. This is a great country," Nelson said. 


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