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Correcting Bernie Farber

I've recently responded to a number of misleading assertions from Mr. Bernie Farber regarding Canada’s fair and generous immigration and refugee system.  Mr. Farber has made no secret of his opposition to our Conservative government; he is himself a former provincial Liberal candidate and he frequently puts forth flawed positions that are popular with the ideological left.

While Mr. Farber is entitled to his opinion, he is not entitled to his own 'facts.'  Indeed, Mr. Farber’s attempts to misinform Canadians about our country’s solid record in refugee protection can be fairly characterized as shameful.

Canada has one of the most generous refugee systems in the world.   

We welcome one out of every 10 resettled refugees globally, more than almost any other industrialized country in the world.

In 2012, Canada was the country with the highest volume of resettled refugee arrivals per capita, according to the UNHCR Global Trends.   That includes both privately sponsored AND government-assisted refugees from areas of persecution and conflict around the globe, including the Middle East, Asia and Africa.  These are places around the world where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is most active because they are where the most genuine refugees can be found.

Yet Mr. Farber wilfully ignores these facts, when he pushes for Canada to throw open the doors to anyone who claims to be a refugee, regardless of where they are from or whether their claims are factual.  (The vast majority of claims other than through UN auspices, are found, in fact, to be unfounded or are eventually withdrawn or abandoned.)

Mr. Farber is perhaps most misleading in his arguments for refugee and asylum claimants from the European Union, the United States and other liberal, democracies like Canada.  They, like all other asylum claimants, receive full and fair hearings at Canada’s independent and quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), where decisions are made based on the merits of the facts specific to each case, and in accordance with Canada’s immigration laws.

Mr. Farber is particularly fond of defending Roma asylum claimants from Hungary, even though most of these claims are ultimately rejected, withdrawn or voluntarily abandoned.   In 2009, 97% of Hungarian asylum claimants voluntarily withdrew or abandoned their claims.   In 2010, this number was 92%.   That is to say, the vast majority of cases – people supposedly in need of our protection - were voluntarily withdrawn or abandoned by the claimants themselves.  And yet Mr. Farber continues to criticize Canada for reforming our asylum system to prevent such blatant abuse.  The previous high number of unworthy Roma claimants plugged the system, effectively blocking legitimate asylum claimants from countries in genuine distress - countries such as Afghanistan, Congo, Egypt, Somalia and Syria.

Where was Mr. Farber when they needed someone to advocate on their behalf?

When I dared to point out the various errors of fact in one of Mr Farber's recent Huffington Post blogs, he responded with disingenuous questions regarding our government's principled support for the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

The Harper Government's leadership role in Holocaust education and combatting anti-Semitism both in Canada and worldwide, including in our role as chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Our Government serves as a model to other nations.  This includes support for Community Historical Recognition Projects that educate Canadians about historical experiences of Canada’s Jews during dark periods of wartime discriminatory measures and immigration restrictions, including commemoration of victims of the SS. St Louis and repudiating the "None Is Too Many" policy of the then-Liberal government.

Our support also includes financial assistance for security upgrades at vulnerable Jewish institutions, such as synagogues and schools, through our Security Infrastructure Program (SIP). 

As well, our government is establishing a National Holocaust Monument in Canada’s capital, to memorialize the innocent men, women and children who perished in the Holocaust, to recognize the incredible contributions that Holocaust survivors have made to Canada, and to stand as a symbol of Canadian values and diversity.

In addition Mr. Farber is, once again, way off the mark in his attempt to demean our government’s support for Israel.  

The State of Israel remains threatened by groups and regimes that deny its very right to exist.

Canada will continue to stand with Israel, notably in international forms such as the United Nations, against those who terrorize her people and delegitimize their right to exist and live in peace and security.

The already strong bilateral relationship between Canada and Israel, which is based on shared values that include freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, continues to flourish.    

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Harper led an historic mission to Israel which resulted in expanded free trade negotiations and the signing of a Strategic Partnership agreement to further enhance our close bilateral relationship.

Our Prime Minister also delivered a remarkable and moving address to Israel's Parliament, the Knesset – the first Canadian Prime Minister to do so.

The PM said he believes “It is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.”

“It is a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular", he said.    "Through fire and water, Canada will stand with Israel."

Bernie Farber Article