The Current

Governments weigh security with speed to settle Syrian refugees

The Prime Minister is now confronting a chorus of Canadians calling on him to expedite the entry of Syrian refugees. His response continues to cite security and screening. Some accuse Stephen Harper of fear mongering. Others agree there's a potential for ISIS fighters or Assad henchmen to sneak in.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government is looking into improving the refugee resettlement process, but it will not airlift refugees from countries such as Syria and Iraq, without conducting a proper security screening as it poses a security threat to Canada. (EPA/Nake Batev )
"We're talking about a terrorist war zone a lot of people are coming from.  We will make sure we are also protecting Canadians from the security risk. And there is no contradiction. We will do both. We will help refugees.  We will also protect Canadians on security. And we are committed to doing both of these things. - PM Stephen Harper on screening Syrian refugees

On the campaign trail yesterday, Conservative leader Stephen Harper faced question after question about the Syrian refugee crisis... and just how quickly Canada can accept more refugees.

Security concerns are a major part of the hold-up, according to Mr. Harper. But the opposition wasn't having it.

Amnesty International has been watching the refugee crisis with growing alarm... and last week its Canadian branch asked Stephen Harper to expedite the settlement of Syrian refugees to Canada. 

Alex Neve is the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. He was in Ottawa.

Letter to PM from Amnesty International Canada

The United Nations says most refugees flooding Europe are fleeing violence in their home countries who have a legal right to seek asylum. (REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)

Amidst all the calls for refugees from Syria to be settled here in Canada as quickly as possible, my next guest says striking a balance between humanitarian assistance and security at home is crucial. 

Martin Collacott is a former Canadian ambassador to Syria and Lebanon. He also oversaw counter-terrorism policy for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. We reached him at home in Vancouver.  

Gar Pardy has been watching the refugee crisis unfolding and has thought a lot about security.  He was Canadian Ambassador to five Central American countries and was director  general of the consular affairs bureau in the Department of Foreign Affairs for 11 years, until retiring in 2003. Gar Pardy was in Ottawa. 


How would you like to see the government handle the refugee crisis right now? 

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This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal, Marc Apollonio and Sujata Berry.