No Unaccompanied Men: Canada’s Syrian Refugee Program Takes Controversial Turn

Canada has vowed to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country by the end of the year. But the plan has taken a controversial turn. The government has decided that (in the first wave of Syrian refugees, at least) it will only be accepting women, children, and families – no single unaccompanied males.

According to CBC News, this exclusion of male Syrian refugees doesn’t sit well with some, including NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

“While security concerns remain of vital importance, will a young man who lost both parents be excluded from Canada’s refugee program? Will a gay man who is escaping persecution be excluded? Will a widower who is fleeing [ISIS] after having seen his family killed be excluded?”

According to the National Post, however, gay men among the Syrian refugees will be accepted, which answers one of Mulcair’s concerns. Meanwhile, Robyn Urback opines in the National Post that there are serious flaws in the approach adopted by the government when it comes to the refugees.

“Canada’s plan is also an imperfect one — one that assumes that the greatest threat to our security has or will come by way of single men, which is not always true, and one that undermines the notion that the lives of all Syrian refugees matter equally, which is at once invalidated by Canada’s plan to leave single male claimants languishing in refugee camps.”

According to the Telegraph, however, Faisal Alazem of the Syrian Canadian Council, a non-profit organization working the government to sponsor Syrian refugees, sees the plan to exclude unaccompanied men as an understandable “compromise.”

“This is not the ideal scenario to protect vulnerable people – women and children and men too. But I think what happened in Paris has really changed the dynamic and public opinion.”

Around 900 Syrian refugees will be arriving in Canada per day starting next week. Although the Canadian government would like to have all 25,000 refugees in Canada by the end of the year, it does not look like they will meet that deadline.

Some refugees have already started to arrive ahead of the major push to bring Syrian refugees over from Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. For example, in Calgary, a Syrian named Esho, who has been in Canada for three years, was reunited with 16 other family members who had been stuck in a refugee camp in Jordan for just over two years. They have now been moved to Canada as refugees and were warmly welcomed at the Calgary airport from both strangers and family members.

The National Post quoted Esho expressing his happiness at seeing his relatives after working for so long to bring his family members to Canada.

“Now I have the whole family here in Canada. They are safe now in a beautiful country with friendly people… My words in this situation don’t help me. I’m so happy I can’t express my feelings… It was very dangerous conditions there. Now they are here in Canada so I am so relaxed now, I’m not nervous.”

When it comes to the rest of the expected Syrian refugees, the Globe and Mail reports Chris Friesen of the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia as saying he believes refugees who are being brought into Canada under government-assisted programs will initially be housed in Quebec and Ontario military bases. After a “number of weeks,” they will be spread out across the country to 36 “refugee service hubs” to be resettled.

Other refugees coming will have private sponsorship that will be covering the costs for the first year that they are in the country, and they will be sent as quickly as possible to where their sponsorship is located.

The Canadian government is set to release more information on their plans to relocate Syrian refugees later on Tuesday.

[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]