OTTAWA (TIP): Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political rivals pounced on news Oct 8 that he interfered with the resettlement of Syrian refugees, bringing the issue of migrants back to life in Canadian legislative elections.
The Globe and Mail reported that the prime minister’s office had directed immigration officials to temporarily halt processing Syrian refugee claims several months ago, effectively delaying their resettlement in Canada.
The claims were to be vetted and approved by Harper, meaning fewer cases were ready for sponsorship when Canadians came forward in large numbers following the drowning of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in August, the newspaper said.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau on Thursday called the government’s actions “irresponsible,” saying it was an unacceptable “interference with important processes where lives are at stake.”
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democrats, said that the affair showed “abject behavior by Stephen Harper.”
“It is a shame on Canada. And Stephen Harper should apologize and remove those restrictions now,” he added.
The rerouted process was in place for several weeks, the newspaper said. At the same time, the prime minister’s office also ordered an audit of all UN-referred asylum seekers in 2014 and 2015.
Harper faced strong criticism earlier in the campaign for not doing more for migrants, as a crisis unfolded in Europe with a record influx of people fleeing war in Syria.
Canada’s election is scheduled for October 19.
The prime minister’s office and immigration officials were not immediately available for comment Octobner 8, 2015.
Chris Day, spokesman for immigration minister Chris Alexander, however, told the Globe and Mail the processing of claims resumed after a review to ensure that “procedures were adequate to identify those vulnerable persons in most need of protection while screening out threats to Canada.”
The Tories last month committed to accepting 10,000 refugees within one year by simplifying and speeding up the application process, while stressing the key to ending the crisis was to defeat the Islamic State group.