The Syrian refugee crisis seemed to reach its pinnacle in September when the small body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey. Aylan, his brother, mother and father had fled Syria in a tiny overcrowded boat that capsized during the treacherous journey. Aylan, his brother, Ghalib, and their mother all drowned in the waters off the Turkish coast, something which fueled the humanitarian outcry that came immediately after.
Countries around the world vowed to open their borders and arms to the hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian refugees who were flooding into Europe. Canada, more than half a world away from Syria, quickly came under fire by the international media because the Kurdi family had wanted to settle in Canada with extended family. Mr. Kurdi pointed out Canada’s stringent immigration guidelines as part of the reason the Kurdi’s never made it to the Great White North.
The then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, expressed his condolences to the family, but remained vague as to what role Canada would play in housing fleeing refugees. In mid-October, Stephen Harper lost the federal election to liberal candidate, Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau vowed to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of 2015. Then the November 13th Paris attacks happened and renewed fear of a North American terrorist attack. Countries around the world began to scale back their efforts to ease the refugee crisis and citizens raised concerns about safety.
“It didn’t take the tragedy in Paris for us to suddenly realize that security’s important,” Trudeau told reporters. “We’ve known for a long time, and we continue to be very much committed to keeping Canadians safe while we do the right thing to engage responsibly on this humanitarian crisis.”
Unwavering in his stance to welcome Syrian refugees into Canada, Trudeau remained steadfast that Canada would not turn its back on the plight of the refugees. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have been some of Trudeau’s loudest and most staunch supporters.
Wynne told the Ottawa Citizen that she plans to bring 10,000 refugees into Ontario before the end of 2016. When asked if Ontario was ready for such an influx, the Premier responded, “Are we ready? Yes,” she said.
While Ontario’s Premier is committed to bringing in refugees over the next 12 months, Alberta’s Premier, Rachel Notley, has vowed to bring in the first intake of refugees who will be arriving over the next six weeks. “These people have been fleeing this kind of terror for months and months and months and I think we need to move forward on the basis of humanity, not on the basis of fear,” Notley told the press. “When I saw what happened in Paris, what happened in Beirut, I thought about the families, I thought about the victims.”
Notley has already designated five Albertan cities as destinations for the newcomers. Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Calgary will become the new home to the 2,500 to 3,000 refugees Notley has agreed to admit.
Edmonton and Calgary are expected to take in the vast majority of the Syrian refugees who choose to settle in Alberta. Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, is urging Calgarians to remember the true spirit of what it means to be Canadian.
According to Nenshi, Calgary’s rental vacancies are at an all-time high, which means there are plenty of units available for refugees when they begin to arrive over the next month and a half. “We’ve got about 2,500 vacant apartments in the city now, and we’ve been going to landlords, ranging from people who have a basement suite to very large landlords who have hundreds of units on the market, who have been offering discounts, special deals, flexible leases in order to get people into decent homes before they get on their feet,” Nenshi told the Calgary Herald.
Calgary businessman and CEO of Strategic Group, Riaz Mamdani, has offered his assistance to the mayor. Strategic Group, which owns rental properties around the country, has offered up their units to house some of the newcomers and will work with the municipalities and local governments to ensure that the refugees are able to afford the rental spaces. “If that means we’re not going to charge them for a period of time, that’s our commitment to the overall cause,” Riaz Mamdani told MetroNews recently.
Canada is a nation built on the ingenuity and comradery of immigrants. As Riaz Mamdani pointed out, it is one of the reasons Canada is such a great country. “My family are immigrants to Canada who came in a difficult time from a part of the world that was in chaos,” Riaz Mamdani said. “This is part of giving back to people 45 years later in a similar circumstance.”
Late Monday afternoon, Mayor Nenshi confirmed that the first two families of Syrian refugees were set to arrive in Calgary sometime Monday. The families are only two of the 400 families that the city will welcome over the next 45 days.
Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.
Women and children among Syrian refugees – By Mstyslav Chernov – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Justin Trudeau – Wikimedia Public Domain
Guest Author Bio
Andrew Willis is a graduate of Toronto’s York University with a dual degree in English Literature and Business. He is a respected author and idealist. Andrew earned his start as an online journalist and blogger, commenting on popular financial issues of the day. Because of his background in Business, Andrew has a growing interest in real estate and finance and the business, investment and environmental impacts associated with international markets. Andrew is currently researching the global effects of increased industry in developing countries.