Harper was right: Private refugee sponsorship works better

It’s cheaper — and it gives migrants a better shot at improving their lives

It was the image that first turned the tide of the 2015 election: a photograph of a little boy, washed up on a Greek beach, his face in the sand, his tiny trainers still on his feet.

Overnight, the haunting picture of Alan Kurdi, a four-year-old Syrian refugee who perished trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, ostensibly after his family was refused refugee status in Canada, made Syrian migrants the top issue of the campaign. The story disrupted the Conservative narrative of Justin Trudeau being “not ready” and focused public attention on the government’s refugee policy, including its failure to meet its modest resettlement targets of 3,500 migrants in 2015.

“Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing horrors. We’ve got to step up to the plate, we’ve got to be part of an international solution, we’ve got to start doing our fair share,” thundered NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau touted his previously-announced pledge to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. “Canadians have been deeply moved by the suffering of refugees in Syria and the surrounding region. Canada has a strong history of helping those in need, from Hungarian refugees in the 1950s to Ismaili Muslim refugees in the 1970s to those fleeing South East Asia by boat in the 1970s and 1980s,” read the party’s pledge for “Real Change.”

As for the Tories, then-immigration minister Chris Alexander ham-handedly responded by accusing the CBC of ignoring the refugee crisis (a charge easily refuted, on-air, by Power and Politics host Rosemary Barton). The cold and aggressive exchange bolstered the perception that Stephen Harper and his party lacked compassion, already the party’s Achilles’ heel. This in turn prompted the Tories to shift their focus to national security and the “politics of fear”, including the now-infamous “barbaric practices tipline” — setting a tone which voters ultimately rejected in favour of Trudeau.

But a year later, it turns out that the Harper government’s refugee policy, which emphasized private sponsorship over mass government assistance, may have had more going for it than it got credit for. According to a report released this week by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, cited by the Toronto Star, government-assisted refugees have a tougher time adapting to Canadian life than their privately-sponsored counterparts — and cost the taxpayer more in the process.

The report was commissioned as part of the Harper government’s cost-effectiveness crackdown on government programs launched in 2009 by the Treasury Board. It studied refugees who came to Canada between 2010 and 2015, but did not cover the 25,000 Syrian refugees admitted by the Trudeau government after November 2015.

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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