As It Happens

Former Tory minister Pat Carney to Conservatives: Let in more refugees or be voted out

Pat Carney, who also sat in the Senate as a Conservative, calls on her own party to take in 100,000 refugees immediately or be "swept out of office by a tsunami wave of anger."
Former Tory cabinet minister Pat Carney is calling on her Conservative counterparts in Ottawa to bring in 100,000 refugees immediately. ( and N. Daoud/UNHCR)

Pat Carney has a message for her Conservative colleagues: Do the right thing or face the wrath of the voters.

The former Tory cabinet minister and senator has been watching how the party has responded to the current refugee crisis. And she feels they're failing those in need of safe haven, fleeing places like Syria and Iraq.

She wrote an open letter to Chris Alexander, who served as immigration minister in the last cabinet and who is running for re-election for the Conservatives in Ajax. In it, she called on him to bring 100,000 refugees to Canada immediately -- far beyond what Ottawa has proposed.

"Act from your guts and your heart," she wrote. "Otherwise, the Conservative Government should be swept out of office by a tsunami wave of anger."

The Conservatives have pledged to bring in 50,000 Iraqis and Syrians. Just 2,300 Syrians have arrived in Canada as refugees since the civil war began in 2011.

"There doesn't seem to be recognition that [this crisis] is happening in our own world. We're no longer a nation of immigrants, as we like to say. We are all family," Carney tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

"When we see the people on the beaches and walking the tracks and on the railway station, those are our people."

A Syrian refugee reacts as he waits behind border fences to cross into Turkey at Akcakale border gate, June 15, 2015. (Umit Bektas/REUTERS)

Alexander responded to Carney with a note that argued that Canada is already doing its fair share. "Our compassion has never wavered," he wrote.

But Carney takes issue with Canada's policy of accepting only refugees from the region who have been approved by the United Nations.

"Those people are pre-packaged, pre-approved, pre-sanitized and ready to come. That's fine. But those people already have a roof over their head. They have somewhere to go, some sponsors probably to go to," Carney says.

"I'm talking about the wave of humanity that has been forced out of their homes and are seeking refuge . . . Tired, exhausted, hungry children. The women who are desperate. The husbands who are screaming with rage, 'We are human. We are human.'"

She says she is asking for 100,000 refugees to be brought in partly for "shock value." And partly because that's how many Irish people were allowed into Canada during the famine of 1847.

We have done it. We can do it. And we should do it.- Pat Carney, former Tory cabinet minister and senator

Alexander argues in his written reply to Carney that the Conservatives are also addressing the crisis with its military campaign against ISIS. He writes, "Standing on the sidelines as these depraved groups try to take over Syria, Iraq and other countries is also not an option."

Carney says she supports the fight against ISIS. But she argues that does not mean Canada should ignore the wave of people trying to get to Europe by boat and by foot.

She believes Canada should do what it did during the refugee crises that arose from the conflicts in Vietnam in the '70s and Bosnia in the '90s -- get on the ground and airlift people out.

"The government has got trained officials who do know how to take the cork out of the bottleneck," Carney says. "We have done it. We can do it. And we should do it."