Canadian opposition pledges to welcome Syrian refugees

The Canadian opposition party New Democrats promised to welcome Syrian refugees to Canada if it wins the upcoming legislative elections

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As the Syrian refugee crisis became a major campaign issue this week, the Canadian opposition party New Democrats promised Saturday to welcome Syrian refugees to Canada if it wins the upcoming legislative elections.

The announcement follows intense media coverage of the death of a Syrian toddler who drowned as his family fled the war-torn country and a refugee crisis shaking Europe, which has put migration policy front and center in the October 19 elections.

The New Democrats say they are asking the current Conservative government to accept 46,000 refugees through 2019, 10,000 this year and 9,000 each of the next four years.

Their plan also calls for removing bureaucratic red tape to expedite resettling of refugees and appointing a dedicated Syrian refugee coordinator to oversee efforts.

“Let us move forward with concrete measures focused on saving lives now and a stable plan for helping in the years to come,” New Democrat foreign affairs leader Paul Dewar said in announcing the migration plan.

The Conservative government has said it will accept an additional 10,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq, combined, per year over the next three years.

The Liberal party, the other major opposition party, has said the government should “immediately” accept 25,000 Syrian refugees.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative party, has called for a several-fold approach that would welcome migrants but also step up military intervention in Syria and Iraq.

“I don’t know how you look at these images and conclude we should walk away and let those people be killed because we don’t want to participate in a military engagement. I think that’s completely irresponsible. Our reaction is we’re doing everything. We need to do more. We will do more on every front,” Harper said Thursday.

The New Democrats and Liberals oppose greater military action, calling instead for a dedicated focus on the refugee crisis.

In making their announcement, the New Democrats said the UN has called on Western countries to resettle one million Syrians over the next five years, with Canada taking in 9,000 of those.

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