More on the Kurdis: The NDP Rides the Bandwagon

No sooner did I publish my weblog piece on the deaths of the three Kurdish refugees in the waters off Turkey, I received in my e-mail inbox a missive from my MP, the New Democratic Party's Craig Scott (Broadview-Danforth).

"Dear Fellow Canadian," he says. "By now I am sure you are aware of the devastating scale of the Syrian refugee crisis. Canadians have been galvanized to act by the story and pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the toddler washed ashore..." So here my own NDP MP is committing exactly the cynical errors (lies?) I set out in "Alan, Ghalib, and Rehanna Kurdi, and the Cynicism of the West.

"This is the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War," he breathlessly announces. Oh, really? Ever heard of Rwanda? The Ethiopian famines?

But never fear. Craig, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair are ready to "work ... across partisan divides to tackle the crisis," to, among other things, "demand a more robust response to the crisis from the Harper government." Actually, I think the Harper participation in the crisis is already pretty robust—in our names, he's doing all he can to support efforts to create more refugees. That's a problem that cries out to be addressed, just as strongly as the cries for refuge. After all, if the violence stopped, the great majority of the refugees would want to go home.

As predicted, MP Scott has nothing to say about all the other refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, many of whom Canada is directly responsible for. (See Libya.)

I was shocked that Canada's formerly social democratic party would take such a pandering stance on such an important issue. I responded the same day, as below.

* * * * *

To: Craig Scott, MP

This is Tory-Liberal style electioneering of a very cynical stench. "Wow! The media are talking about Syrian refugees, we'd better catch that wave!"

Since Kurdish victims of Turkey Alan, Ghalib, and Rehanna Kurdi drowned in the Mediterranean a couple of weeks ago, there's been a concerted effort in the media and the political establishment to highlight refugees from Syria, while ignoring all the others that have drowned in desperate missions in ricketty boats. But the migrant waves aren't just from Syria, they're from Mali, Libya, Southern Sudan, and many other places.

(I call the Kurdis victims of Turkey (1) because Turkey supports the Islamic State, (2) because in the guise of attacking their friends the Islamic State, they're actually attacking Kurds, in Turkey and Syria, and (3) because it's the Turkish State that refuses to grant refugee documents for the Kurds it's attacking, forcing Kurds to take the desperate measures that end them up in the Med. Harper's attempts to blame the Islamic State for their troubles rings quite hollow in these ears.)

You remember Libya, don't you? The NDP was on the sidelines, with Paul Dewar cheering his brains out over the NATO plot to assassinate Qaddafi. The media/Amnesty International/Human Rights Watch "My God! There's going to be a massacre in Benghazi!!!" panic affected you all, and look what we have now. (There have since been many massacres, in Benghazi and elsewhere, thanks to us.)

The waves of migrants are fairly directly attributable to US/NATO/EU campaigns to re-make the Middle East in the image they'd prefer, with disastrous consequences. The destruction of Libya has made the now-failed state a conduit for desperate Africans that used to settle there, before we bombed it to smithereens. The NATO partnership with al-Qaeda-like entities continues to drive Africans from their homes. Perhaps not surprisingly, no one wants to talk about Libya any more, despite that it's the centre of a lot of the refugee problems that bedevil us now, entirely predictably.

The NDP of the past would have seen the Islamic State for what it is—a band of ruthless mercenaries paid by our "friends" the Saudis and Qataris, among others, trained by Western "intelligence" forces, and housed and supported by Turkey and Jordan, among others.

The NDP of the past would have seen that the refugees from Syria are manifestations of much more general issues.

The NDP of the past would have been calling for the acceptance of refugees from everywhere, not just Syria.

The NDP of the past would not have missed the most important point here—that our refugee "problem" would be much more manageable if Canada would stop participating in the kinds of depredations in foreign lands that create vast waves of refugees.

Sincerely,
Brian Robinson

* * * * *

(Here is the full text of Craig Scott's letter.)

A Letter From Craig Scott
Dear fellow Canadian,
By now I am sure you are aware of the devastating scale of the Syrian refugee crisis. Canadians have been galvanized to act by the story and pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the toddler washed ashore after the boat taking him and his family to Greece capsized. His mother and brother were also lost and are now among the 2,500 refugees who have died this summer attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

But the scale of the disaster is so large, it is hard for many to grasp. The crisis has generated more than 4 million refugees and displaced more than 7.6 million Syrians within their own country. This is the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR – the UN’s refugee relief agency) aims to settle 130,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. To date, Canada has resettled 2,374 with a commitment to take an additional 8,926 by the end of 2017. Canada has a moral obligation to do much more.

Francois Crepeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, has called for the resettlement of 1 million Syrian refugees over the next five years. Canada’s share of the global total is relatively modest – 9,000 Syrian refugees per year.

My NDP colleagues and party leader Tom Mulcair are committed to working across partisan divides to tackle the crisis, and to facilitate independent initiatives being taken by Canadian citizens.

Indeed, I have been personally involved for over a year and a half, along with NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar and our Mississauga–Streetsville candidate Fayaz Karim, in working with Syrian refugee support activists and organizations (many of them centred in Mississauga), to demand a more robust response to the crisis from the Harper government. We had been shocked to learn that government ministers were spreading misleading information about the extent of Canada’s official support for Syrian refugees, in turn placing almost the entire burden of relief and response on private sponsors.

Now that the truth is known about the inadequate Canadian response, it’s up to all of us to make sure Canada and the world community rise to the task—to provide sanctuary and to relieve the massive suffering of these millions of families.

Critical to that mission is that Canada contribute to multilateral efforts coming from the United Nations. We simply must respond to the UN’s appeal. That is why, working as a government alongside compassionate Canadians, alongside other states that must accept more refugees, and alongside the UN, Tom Mulcair and the NDP are committed to bring more than 46,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

Here is a summary of the 5-part NDP plan for immediate government action—urgent but practical steps that can be taken now—plus some additional ideas:

  1. Resettle 10,000 Government-sponsored refugees by the end of this year, plus 9,000 per year for the next four years. Appoint a Syrian Refugee Coordinator to oversee the resettlement of 10,000 refugees by the end of this year, and 9,000 per year between 2016 and 2019, making it a priority to keep families together.

  2. Improve refugee resettlement. Fast-track private refugee sponsorships, with no cap, and provide temporary residency permits for Syrians seeking to come and stay temporarily with family.

  3. Acclerate arrival of refugees in Canada. Increase the number of immigration officials and assist provinces, territories, municipalities, and others to resettle refugees.

  4. Remove bureaucratic obstacles to settlement. Work with Turkey and other affected countries to streamline exit requirements, and treat all refugees equally by ending Canada’s policy of discrimination on the basis of religion.

  5. Increase Canada’s humanitarian contribution. Match Canadians’ humanitarian donations, increase aid to the UNHCR, and help coordinate the response of the international community.


Again, these are steps that can be set in motion immediately, and we call on the Prime Minister to act on them.

There is also much you can do as an individual.

Many people in Toronto are contributing to Lifeline Syria, chaired by the respected Ratna Omidvar, which is seeking to help settle 1,000 families in the GTA. You can find out more about their work and make a contribution at lifelinesyria.ca. The Canadian Red Cross is providing essential relief items for refugees still in Syria and those in Europe. You can make an online donation at www.redcross.ca. You can help the UN Refugee Agency collect funds for emergency supplies and medical care at www.unhcr.ca. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is also very active in the crisis zones, and can be reached through www.msf.ca.

This moment is about who we are as a country and what we believe our responsibility to be as part of the global community. This issue goes beyond partisanship. It is a Canadian issue and demands action. Lets not waste another day.

Craig Scott

Copyright © 2015 Craig Scott and Toronto-Danforth NDP, All rights reserved.

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