Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed a report that accused his office of delaying the processing of Syrian refugee claims. This comes less than two weeks before the legislative elections are to be held.
Harper was criticized by his political opponents for his handling of the refugee crisis. According to a report published by the Globe and Mail, Harper had instructed the immigration authorities to delay the process of the resettlement of Syrian refugees several months ago.
In response to the report, Harper said that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) makes certain that the most vulnerable are chosen for resettlement, while keeping the country safe and secure. “The audit we asked for earlier this year was to ensure that these policy objectives are being met,” Harper said, according to CBC News. “Political staff are never involved in approving refugee applications. Such decisions are made by officials in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.”
On Wednesday, Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander, confirmed a report which claimed that the PMO instructed immigration authorities to halt the processing of a preliminary group of Syrian refugees, pending an audit of their cases. Alexander said in a written statement that vetting the cases of UN designated refugees was to “ensure the integrity of our refugee referral system.” He further said that processing of the refugees “resumed only after there was confidence that our procedures were adequate to identify those vulnerable persons in most need of protection while screening out threats to Canada.”
The report said that the claims were to be vetted by Harper, which resulted in a fewer cases being ready for sponsorship. Citizenship and Immigration were asked by the PMO for certain Syrian refugee files so they could be vetted.
However, Harper said that his office had requested for a security “audit,” adding that through this move his Tory government has adopted a “generous approach to the admission of refugees while ensuring the selection of the most vulnerable people and keeping our country safe and secure.” He further said, “Political staff are never involved in approving refugee applications. Such decisions are made by officials in the department of citizenship and immigration.”
According to Channel News Asia, Harper has often been criticized for intervening in the functioning of the government and not letting his ministers be in charge of their responsibilities. “Stephen Harper himself prevented the arrival of Syrian families in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two … that is abject behaviour,” Tom Mulcair, leader of the New Democrats, said.
The polls suggest that Harper is to lose in his majority in the October 19 election. Furthermore, he might even be unseated by the opposition parties. Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, said, “There are very few people … who are surprised when we hear reports of the prime minister and his office meddling in things in a political and non-transparent way.”
Last month, the Tories said they will accept 10,000 refugees in one year by speeding up the application process, as reported by Yahoo News. On the other hand, the Liberals committed to accepting 25,000 refugees by year’s end, while the New Democrats called for resettling 46,000 refugees over a period of four years.
You might also be interested in: Fire Forces Evacuation At Delaware Legislative Hall