Group makes up a small amount of national population
Does Canada accept too many refugees? Many Canadians believe that charity begins and ends at home and that we should not spend our time and resources on foreigners who might present phony claims, abuse our welfare system, or pose a criminal or security threat to this country.
Media reports of patronage appointments, corruption, and questionable reasoning at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) only adds fuel to this fire.
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The first thing that one must remember is that Canada’s “obligation” to accept refugees, if you can call it that, is purely self-imposed.
In 1951, Canada signed a U.N. convention in which we agreed to offer asylum to those who were outside of their own country and who faced persecution on one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Those who are facing almost certain death due to civil unrest, war, poverty, hunger, natural catastrophe, disease, etc, are not “convention refugees” and are excluded from protection unless the threat is somehow related to one of these five convention grounds.
Since this definition is quite narrow, our immigration legislation now includes a second class of refugees, i.e. “persons in need of protection,” which includes people who would face torture, a risk to their life, or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment in their own country for virtually any reason.
In 2005, Canada accepted 262,236 new immigrants of which 35,768, i.e. 13.6 per cent, were refugees.
Of the 35,768 refugees 7,416 were selected and sponsored from abroad by the federal government. These people would typically be found in refugee camps, etc.
Private groups, churches and other charitable organizations sponsored another 2,976 refugees from abroad. These groups are responsible to establish a settlement plan for the sponsored refugee and ensure that they do not access any social assistance.
Another 19,935 refugees fled their countries and entered Canada legally, or otherwise, and persuaded the IRB that they were “convention refugees” or were “in need of protection.” In the same period, the IRB rejected a similar number of claims.
The spouses and children of all these refugees accounted for another 5,441. These numbers reveal that refugees add one-tenth of one per cent to Canada’s population annually.
One-third of them were specifically chosen through government and private sponsorships while two-thirds were not.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that in 2005 there were 20.8 million people “of concern” worldwide including 8.4 million refugees. In that year, Canada took in four-tenths of one per cent of this global refugee population.
There is no question that our refugee program is essentially an act of charity and kindness towards the persecuted.
However, given the total numbers of displaced people around the world and our relative economic resources, it doesn’t look like we are going overboard with our kindness.