September 9, 2015
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Ottawa
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Dear Prime Minister,
After seeing images of refugees fleeing their war-torn homes, especially of the little boys Alan and Galib Kurdi, nobody has been left indifferent. We are saddened and angered by this ongoing tragedy in the Middle-East. We hope and pray for an end to this grave conflict that continues to force families to leave their homes to seek shelter, water and food elsewhere.
Jesuits and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) teams are present in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. JRS is providing much needed emergency humanitarian assistance and is building bridges between people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, working in teams which reflect the diversity of the population.
We call on your government to:
§ First, welcome more refugees. Our Western countries have the capacity to welcome many more people. By doing so, we would prevent more loss of life as people try to reach safety by any means possible even at the risk of their lives. Western governments, including Canada, could create a special temporary resident permit that would allow refugees to arrive safely in our countries without having to resort to traffickers. We join our voice to that of many Canadians for the expedited arrival on Canadian soil of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over and above the regular resettlement numbers, and selected solely on the basis of need. Furthermore, the Canadian government should facilitate private sponsorship of refugees, including restoring the full Interim Federal Health Coverage and lifting the document requirements for Groups of Five sponsorships. In past crises, Canada helped thousands of refugees (e.g., Kosovo in 1999, Vietnam in the late ’70s and early ’80s). We can certainly do the same now.
§ Second, increase our humanitarian assistance to the region. Western countries are able to deliver and fund much more humanitarian assistance to the displaced people who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, not to mention the internally displaced. These countries are currently carrying the burden of the millions of people who have left Syria, and humanitarian organizations are stretched to the limit. Families are not only fleeing incredible violence, they are also fleeing the region due to the lack of relief aid inside their country and at their first place of displacement.
§ Third, work for peace. It is of utmost importance to find a durable solution to the Syrian crisis. It is a very complex situation. There are no ready-made answers, but certainly, war is not one of them. Western Governments, Canada among them, continue to believe that we can bring a lasting peace to a region by waging war. However, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that war sows seeds that grow into resentment and rage.
We, as Jesuits, are inspired by Jesus’ call to bring peace to this world. We are motivated by Matthew 25:35-36, inviting us to welcome the stranger, and doing good to the person who is desperately in need as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. We therefore ask you to do the right thing by opening Canada’s doors to the Syrian people in need, by increasing our humanitarian aid to the region and by allowing Canada to be an instrument of peace.
|Jean-Marc Biron, S.J.
Provincial, French-Canadian Jesuit Province
|Peter Bisson, S.J.
Provincial, English-Canadian Jesuit Province
cc: The Honourable Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada
The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (Official Opposition)
Mr. Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
The Most Reverend Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Rita Larivée, SSA, President, Canadian Religious Conference
The Most Reverend Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Titular Archbishop of Atella