It ignited like a lightning strike in a parched forest when the American president signed an executive order Jan. 27 that imposed a temporary travel ban on citizens from seven primarily Muslim nations, virtually closed U. S. borders to all refugees for 120 days, cut in half the number of refugees that America will eventually accept this year and indefinitely banned all Syrian refugees.
The new administration has loudly declared its resolve to deny the promise of America to tens of thousands of people who primarily fall under the categories of being poor, persecuted for their faith, fleeing genocide or made homeless due to war. Worldwide, more than 65 million people are refugees. The vast majority of them are women and children.
Although there have been several lethal terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, most were carried out by American citizens or legal residents. None has involved a refugee and not one death by terrorism has come at the hands of an immigrant from any of the seven nations on this new blacklist.
Governments certainly have a duty to safeguard their borders. In these troubling times, intelligent, rational security measures are essential. But sweeping and arbitrary bans that unduly punish the most vulnerable go way too far.
There needs to be a balance between justifiable security and fundamental compassion. In this and other recent U.S. executive orders, that balance is woefully lacking. Instead, the new administration has charged into an emotional and complex issue with edicts that reinforce unfortunate stereotypes.
The Jan. 29 mass killing in a Quebec City mosque occurred two days after America singled out seven primarily Muslim nations as security threats. No one has made a link between the two events and perhaps none exists. But in general political decisions that pander to fear and intolerance run the risk of polluting fragile psyches and leading them to rationalize irrational acts.
While American courts and politicians address this sad mess, other nations should declare on the side of compassion and justice, particularly regarding refugees. Canada welcomed 46,000 refugees in 2016. That target was lowered this year to 25,000. In light of American policies, Canada should reexamine its quotas and find a way to safely match last year’s numbers. Likewise, if immigrants are to be less welcome in the United States, they should be made more welcome in Canada.
Ample evidence proves that immigrants and refugees contribute many economic and other worthwhile benefits to society. But, given what is happening in America, those aren’t the reasons Canada should act. We should step up because it is the decent thing to do.