Vastavam web: Yesterday marked the 5-year anniversary of the arrival of the first flight of Syrian refugees to Canada under Canada’s 2015-16 Syrian refugee operation. In November 2015, Canada began an ambitious effort to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees within just a few months. The initiative was largely supported by the Canadian public, as it was an election issue the prior month when Canadians went to the polls in October 2015. Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to welcome 25,000 Syrians by the end of the year. The shocking image of three-year old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washing to shore had a profound impact on the Canadian public.
Canadians gave Trudeau a majority government and as Prime Minister, he and his government pushed the deadline back to give the country enough time to prepare for, and execute the operation. Civil servants at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) worked around the clock. Many volunteered to leave their postings including the comfort of home during the holiday season to travel to the Middle East to support the operation.
The top federal and provincial immigration public servants engaged in daily conference calls. When it was all said and done, many civil servants remarked that achieving this goal was the highlight of their careers. While there were major doubts about Canada’s ability to complete the Syrian initiative within such a short timeframe, there were no doubts about the generosity of Canadians. Canada has a checkered history of helping refugees. For instance, it made the regrettable decision to remain on the sidelines during the Holocaust. However, Canada has sought to make amends since the end of the Second World War.