As of February 28 more than 25,000 Syrian refugees have come to Canada. A little over half came as government-assisted refugees with the rest having private or semi-private sponsorship. A recent issue of TML Weekly features a call from the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) for working people to be vigilant and make sure their rights are defended in the context of defending the rights of all. We are posting the full text below.
TML Weekly explains the different “categories” that these human beings are divided into and the implications for their well-being and future in Canada. It raises the important questions,
“What authority is to advocate for them as human beings with their particular needs? What authority is overseeing these needs as they go from one stage of settlement to the next? The entire matter seems to have become a pragmatic affair of disposing of them as quickly as possible. Phrases are bandied about: ‘they are lucky to be here,’ ‘they should be grateful,’ ‘everyone is doing their best,’ ‘they have been screened and Canadians have nothing to be afraid of.’ And that is that.’”
“What is clear is that while the government gives the impression that it is defending the rights of Syrians in Canada and abroad this is not in fact the case. By having refugees sponsored privately or semi-privately, the onus to uphold various standards is put on various individuals, families and non-government organizations while how they are to be cared for is handed over to private interests and police forces. The unfolding events show that now is the time for the working class and its organizations to take concrete measures to make sure the rights of refugees are upheld in the context of defending the rights of all. This is the conclusion the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) thinks is warranted from its assessment of how the new arrivals have been placed in various communities, how their disposal is treated by the ruling circles and the pressure they are under. It is all the more important given that private monopolies and organizations connected with the Syrian opposition are working to make sure that the arrival of Syrians takes place in a way that benefits their vested interests.”
All of this shows the urgent need to step up the fight for a public authority that takes up its social responsibility to defend the rights of all and implement all the measures required by those who are the most vulnerable at any given time.
Canada’s contribution to resolving refugee crisis: The working class must take the lead in defending the rights of all
(March 5 ) – As of February 28 more than 25,000 Syrian refugees have come to Canada. A little over half came as government-assisted refugees with the rest having private or semi-private sponsorship. In this issue TML Weekly is providing information about the conditions of Syrian refugees who have settled in Canada, the settlement process and related concerns.
What is clear is that while the government gives the impression that it is defending the rights of Syrians in Canada and abroad this is not in fact the case. By having refugees sponsored privately or semi-privately, the onus to uphold various standards is put on various individuals, families and non-government organizations while how they are to be cared for is handed over to private interests and police forces. The unfolding events show that now is the time for the working class and its organizations to take concrete measures to make sure the rights of refugees are upheld in the context of defending the rights of all. This is the conclusion the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) thinks is warranted from its assessment of how the new arrivals have been placed in various communities, how their disposal is treated by the ruling circles and the pressure they are under. It is all the more important given that private monopolies and organizations connected with the Syrian opposition are working to make sure that the arrival of Syrians takes place in a way that benefits their vested interests.
The new arrivals have been divided into several categories: government-assisted refugees (GAR), Blended Visa-Office Referred (BVOR) and privately-sponsored refugees (PSR). Once they are categorized they are no longer referred to as human beings, all of whom should be government-assisted but they become defined by their “category.” What authority is to advocate for them as human beings with their particular needs? What authority is overseeing these needs as they go from one stage of settlement to the next? The entire matter seems to have become a pragmatic affair of disposing of them as quickly as possible. Phrases are bandied about: “they are lucky to be here,” “they should be grateful,” “everyone is doing their best,” “they have been screened and Canadians have nothing to be afraid of.” And that is that.
But what are the different categories all about?
We are told that those individuals who fall into what is called the government-assisted category have come from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and have been settled for the most part in major cities in Canada. These individuals, as well as those in other categories, were already registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and have gone through six levels of screening:
- identification and referral to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada;
- immigration and security overview by visa officers from Canadian embassies and high commissions;
- identity and document verification and biometric and biographic data collection (which involves that data being obtained and verified by the RCMP, CSIS, border services and U.S. security agencies);
- health screening; identity confirmation prior to departure; and
- identity verification upon arrival.
Approximately 290 Canadian Armed Forces personnel (as well as a number of RCMP officers and staff) traveled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to take part in the administrative processing of refugee applications, including the collection of biometric data; provide support for medical screening; and provide an armed forces “command and control element.”
More than 1,000 government-assisted refugees are in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver respectively. Forty-eight per cent are said to be without permanent housing at this time and many are in hotels or other temporary housing, some for months. Temporary housing, such as hotels are paid for by the government outside of the standard refugee income assistance. Refugees in temporary housing are given a $10 per day per adult food allowance and a $50 per minor flat fee (not per day). Once permanent housing is found refugees must pay for housing from standard government income support for refugees, which lasts up to one year or less if it is deemed that they can support themselves. It is not clear how this determination is made.
The support is delivered by government-funded private agencies and it can include funds for housing, clothing, food and other basic items and assistance in finding employment. The maximum amount provided is $25,000 per family, including a one-time “start up” payment and monthly support. The amount however is tied to provincially-determined welfare rates and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told media that the one-year average for Ontario, for instance, is closer to $11,281 but varies depending on family size.
The provincial and federal governments have stressed that refugees will not receive more than the existing welfare rates. The BC Ministry of Social Development told the CBC in response to questions that an adult on welfare would receive $610 per month in income assistance, with $375 for shelter and $235 for food and other support. “Government-assisted refugees…,” said the BC ministry in an email to CBC News, “do not receive more monthly support than people on income assistance.”
The category called “Blended Visa-Office Referred” is comprised of individuals identified for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who have private sponsors in Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the goal of the program is “to engage in a three-way partnership among the Government of Canada, the UNHCR, and private sponsors.” Those in the category are entitled to receive government support for six months, rather than a year. After six months private sponsors are to provide “another six months of financial support and up to a year of social and emotional support.” Sponsors must be individuals or government-certified “Sponsorship Agreement Holders” most of which are religious organizations.
Individuals in the “privately-sponsored” category do not receive government support but are to be looked after by individuals or by Sponsorship Agreement Holders. Privately-sponsored refugees can also seek help from recognized Service Provider Organizations.
The government currently recognizes 1,248 of these Service Provider Organizations, including school boards, NGOs, libraries and private social service organizations but also employment agencies, economic development corporations and private training schools. Privately-sponsored and blended visa-office refugees from Syria, unlike government-assisted individuals are dispersed throughout Canada, with many outside major cities and others dispersed in small numbers or on a family basis in particular rural locations.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says “Normally, a private sponsor supports a refugee for 12 months, starting from the refugee’s arrival in Canada or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.” Private sponsorship of refugees in Canada began only in 1978 in the context of the so-called boat people coming to Canada from Vietnam.
Like other refugees who enter Canada in one of the three above categories, the Syrians became permanent residents upon arrival. To keep this status, they must reside in Canada for two out of every five years and not be convicted of a serious crime or be found to have provided false information on certain paperwork. Refugees who do not receive automatic permanent residence upon arrival are those who enter Canada before claiming refugee status or seeking asylum.
In the opinion of CPC(M-L) all of this is very worrisome. Where will the responsibility lie for all these vulnerable people? All of it seems to be based on an outlook that treats human beings as “a problem” to be dealt with in a manner which causes the least inconvenience and expense to the public treasury. What will happen if these human beings do not perform as “expected” and this “problem” becomes an “inconvenience”?
Immigration Minister John McCallum spoke at a “Welcoming Syrian Refugees” forum held on December 1, 2015 by the Governor General to discuss the disposal of the refugees on their arrival in Canada. He said that there is “a possibility of a social backlash” against Syrian refugees if “Canadians see them as being pampered.” “We don’t want Canadians to think we are giving refugees everything and not accommodating the needs of our own people,” he told the forum. McCallum said one challenge is to keep Canadians “on side.” He said “we have to reassure Canadians on the security front, that’s an ongoing challenge, but the good news is we have the RCMP, CSIS and Canadian border people saying they are satisfied with our methods.”
European Council president Donald Tusk expressed the anti-human outlook which blames the refugees for their own plight on March 3 when he warned them and those he called “potential illegal economic migrants,” to “not come to Europe. Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing.”
It is already clear that the security aspect gives priority to dealing with refugees on a law and order basis. The work of preparing them for their arrival in Canada seems to have been left in the hands of police forces which screened them prior to their being accepted. News reports quote RCMP officers who traveled to Jordan to interview the refugees as having told them that in Canada, unlike Syria or the countries they had been residing in, their rights will be defended by the police. “If you come to Canada and you feel vulnerable, or being taken advantage of, do not fear contacting the police,” one RCMP officer said. “There isn’t corruption as there are in other places in the world,” she said, “the police don’t get any of those special privileges and there isn’t that corruption…” In other words, the responsibilities of government towards the settlement of refugees are not a matter of public discourse, but imbuing them with what are called “Canadian values” and prejudices is considered newsworthy.
Meanwhile, right from the beginning the government has appealed to private monopoly interests to get involved in the settlement of the new arrivals. Certain industries have expressed particular interest, such as the meat packing industry centred around Brooks, Alberta and those who need farm labour in places like Leamington, Ontario. There seems to be a concerted push by private monopoly interests to place people in rural areas where it is claimed there is “a labour shortage.” In this regard, private monopoly interests have expressed an interest to have refugee labour as a more permanent pool of cheap labour in lieu of the guest foreign workers whose visas expire.
A representative of the Canadian Meat Council took part in the Governor General’s December 1 forum and stated that the industry has a chronic labour shortage. “Not enough Canadians are willing to accept job offers for vacancies situated often in smaller, more distant and rural locations,” he said. He called on governments to encourage settlement in places where his industry needs more labour at a standard below that which is acceptable. At the same meeting Susan Scotti of the Canadian Business Council spoke about how many of its member companies are involved in settling Syrians in Canada at every stage.
This is portrayed as charity and humanitarianism although the motives are clear given the complaints from these monopoly interests about the difficulties they have with the temporary foreign worker program and the need for workers who will do “jobs that Canadians are not willing to do.” This is presented as a “win-win” for private interests, Canadians and Syrians who need jobs. This alone should put the working people on alert. The working class and its organizations must play their role to make sure the thousands of Syrians who have come from hardship and strife are not made targets of attack now and when they fight to defend their rights. Foreign “guest workers” who fight for their rights are often repatriated. What will Canada do with Syrian refugees who refuse to compromise their conscience?
Just as private monopoly interests came forward to “welcome” the refugees to Canada, so too, private organizations with vested interests are working with the government to “welcome” the Syrians. Some claim to represent democratic Syrians in Canada but in fact represent only those who have been pushing for “regime change” in that country and are connected to international efforts to interfere in Syria’s sovereignty. Such groups have been given preferential status such that in some cities they are playing a large and leading role in looking after the new arrivals. Will the refugees have to adhere to the beliefs of these organizations to get satisfactory housing, medical attention, education and jobs? If they speak their mind in a manner which does not adhere to what are called “Canadian values” will they be subjected to “deradicalization” and behaviour modification?
In Windsor, Ontario a local group affiliated to the Syrian Canadian Council* has been given a prominent place in coordinating settlement efforts with refugee and immigrant service providers and other local organizations who want to assist refugees upon their arrival. An event sponsored by this group and the business World Water Operator Training Company to welcome refugees was attended by local MPs and MPPs and other officials. The event prominently displayed not the flag of Syria but one with a green stripe used by certain opposition groups who have been pushing for regime change with the support of the U.S., Canada and other countries.
The “Syrian Canadian Council” has been ceaselessly agitating for U.S.-NATO regime change in Syria while agitating against the Syrian government and army as well as Iran, Russia and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah. They show no concern for the involvement of the U.S. and its allies and their sponsorship of atrocities including ISIS.
There are a number of reasons why Syrians have had to leave their country since 2011, but high on the minds of many are the consequences of efforts by the U.S. and its allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel to funnel money and arms to groups in Syria trying to repeat the crime that devastated Libya. One does not need to look further than the great fleets of Toyota Trucks driven by ISIS, which a U.S. Congressional study found to have been originally purchased by none other than the U.S. government.
But these are not the issue when it comes to the settlement of new arrivals. The issue is that settlement should be in the hands of a public authority that is not involved in sectarian activities of any kind, whether political, religious or any other.
Governor General David Johnston said the settlement of Syrian refugees in Canada is “an opportunity to reimagine how we take care of the most marginalized and vulnerable among us.” It is now revealed that this “reimagining” means turning over the settlement to private interests which does not bode well for either the new arrivals or Canadians as a whole. It shows the urgent need to step up the fight for a public authority which takes up its social responsibility to defend the rights of all and implement all the measures required by those who are the most vulnerable at any given time.
CPC(M-L) wishes the Syrian refugees all the best as they strive to make a new life for themselves and their families in Canada and calls on all the working people to be vigilant and make sure their rights are defended in the context of defending the rights of all.
TML Weekly also reports on a number of important national and international developments and the 70th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech, considered the beginning of the Cold War. To read the full issue, click here.
*TS Note: The “Syrian Canadian Council”
The “Syrian Canadian Council” was formed in early June 2011 under the patronage of the ant-Syrian Harper government as a proxy force to split and divide the Syrian and Arab community in Canada. It stated that its “core idea” was “to build new bridges between the Syrian community and the Canadian Government. In all its activities and practices, SCC strictly observes Canadian rules and regulations.” By October 2012 its spokesman, Faisal Alazem, was openly advocating armed NATO intervention against the Syrian Arab Republic.