Nelson: Refugees are cannon fodder in Trudeau’s hunt for headlines

Nelson: Refugees are cannon fodder in Trudeau’s hunt for headlines
April 30, 2018 editorial-team
In Staff Picks

The problem with the various drama series Ottawa insists on launching upon captive Canadians, is it keeps cancelling them just as we finally figure out the plot and characters involved.

This would be annoying if it was simply entertainment designed to distract from questions about such boring topics as our lack of economic strategy and heedless spending, or whether we have actual revised national objectives in the current NAFTA discussions.

But oh no, we need some skin in this ongoing game to guarantee ratings, though never our own, of course. However, the threatened, scared and destitute of other countries will do nicely.

Trudeau’s government loves a high-profile humanitarian cause to cling to, which is why it is drawn to dramas involving desperate people whose plight affords some temporary moral grandstanding before they’re later jettisoned for a more fashionable collection of victims.

Once, it was the poor folk of Syria – a country that’s become the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet for the world’s military machines. Famously, our prime minister opened the doors for many refugees of that conflict and, in a mix of governmental and private action, about 45,000 people were resettled in Canada.

But that was then, this is now. Private refugee groups, many of them faith-based organizations with resettlement processes in place, say things have changed. Delays are now the norm and the welcome tap is tight.

If this was policy then, fair enough. If the government decided we’ve enough on our plate resettling those already here, then that’s both valid and sensible.

But don’t kid yourself. Syrians were yesterday’s news. Suddenly, we were handed an even better grandstanding platform when Donald Trump started threatening to shut his country’s borders and kick “illegals” out in his typically cruel and ham-fisted manner.

Trudeau couldn’t resist responding, hence the hashtag “WelcometoCanada” and his tweet: “to those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.”

The world went gaga over comparison with Terrible Trump. Not surprisingly, those poor people in the U.S. surviving on temporary visas or living off the grid, suddenly imagined a better life north of the border.

They started flooding in. First, it was mainly Haitians, while today, Nigerians make up the bulk of this ever-increasing flow. Border officials are now poised for an influx of El Salvadorians if the U.S. follows through and clamps down on those folk.

The statistics are startling. Quebec, where most of these people enter, says it cannot cope. Numbers have spiked to 6,074 this year alone, compared to about 2,000 during the same period in 2017.

Meanwhile, federal officials have fanned out across major U.S. cities trying to spread the word that what Trudeau tweeted didn’t actually mean everyone’s welcome. Well, that horse has bolted. When a prime minister sends out a message with the hashtag WelcometoCanada aimed at worried people next door, what the heck did he expect?

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