A public forum will be held on Tuesday night to discuss Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s plan to open Vancouver into a ‘sanctuary’ for Syrian refugees.
In a release, Robertson says he will submit a motion to City Council to formally call upon the federal government to accept 20,000 government-sponsored refugees each year by 2020.
Robertson is critical of the Conservative government’s stance given that the federal government has historically taken a lead role in the organization of sponsorships and resettlement of refugees fleeing from a crisis.
This includes 6,000 people from Uganda in 1972 when dictator Idi Amin expelled Ugandans of South Asian origin, 60,000 Vietnamese ‘boat people’ in 1979 to 1980 following the communist victory in the Vietnam War, and airlifting 5,000 people from Kosovo in 1999 during the Kosovo War.
The Conservative Party maintains that it will accommodate 20,000 refugees over the next four years. The Liberal Party has vowed 25,000 refugees by early next year and the NDP are calling for 10,000 refugees by the end of the year, with similar numbers over the following years.
To date, approximately 2,500 refugees from Syria have entered the country through private sponsorships by community groups such as churches. And since 2009, about 20,000 refugees from Iraq have been resettled in the country.
“Vancouver must continue to expand upon the steps we are taking to be a welcoming city, but it’s clear that the Government of Canada has not been meeting our international obligations in this continuing humanitarian crisis,” reads a statement by Robertson.
“The people of Vancouver have a proud history of welcoming refugees, and a deep commitment to ensuring that families affected by this ongoing crisis can find new hope, security, and opportunity in Canada.”
Mayors in other major Canadian cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, have also vowed to step up and work with humanitarian non-governmental organizations. Toronto Mayor John Tory has gone as far as using his own personal funds to sponsor a refugee family. The sponsor cost for a single refugee is $12,000 and a family of four is $25,000, based on their living costs for a single year.
The United Nations’ Refugee Agency stated at the end of August that over 300,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea on their way to the safe haven that the European Union provides. This figure already surpasses the 219,000 recorded migrants in all of 2014.
Another 1.8 million have traveled to Turkey, over 600,000 to Jordan, and one million to Lebanon. Germany anticipates it will see as many as 800,000 refugees enter the country by the end of the year. Last month alone, Germany recorded the entry of 100,000 refugees.
The Syrian Civil War began four years ago when dictator Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown led to a violent rebellion. This was further exacerbated by Hezbollah’s involvement in support of the dictatorship and the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which originated in Iraq.
The Vancouver forum will be hosted by Robertson and includes City Councillors and members of the Canadian Immigrant Settle Sector Alliance, Immigrant Settlement Services, and Mosaic. The forum is open to everyone and will be held in City Hall’s Town Hall meeting room at 7 p.m.