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FirbyEven the most compassionate Canadians acknowledge that with an influx of refugees there will be some social challenges.

No one, however, expects to see the grief that Germany is dealing with after a spate of incidents on New Year’s Eve. A series of assaults against women – as many as 500 – in Cologne is being blamed on migrants.

Police say most of the suspects in Cologne are believed to be foreigners, including at least some asylum-seekers. Many were described as being of “Arab or North African origin.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly under pressure to revisit her liberal stance towards refugees from North Africa and Syria.

Even though such perpetrators bear little resemblance to the Syrian refugees being accepted into Canada, the publicity around these incidents feeds suspicions among those who fear that we are putting our hearts before our heads. Letter-writers question whether Canadian officials can really ensure terrorists don’t sneak in with the legitimate refugees.

Even so, Canada’s relatively mild online petitions pale in comparison to the United States, where more than half of governors oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. Those states include Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, Maine and New Hampshire. CNN reports that all but one of the anti-immigration states have Republican governors. Refugees are seen as both a security threat and unwanted competition for entry level jobs.

Such concerns are wildly misplaced. Let’s look at the facts:

Canadian officials have worked rapidly but with great diligence to ensure that all Syrian refugees approved to enter our country are properly vetted. There is little evidence to suggest shortcuts are undermining the process.

As well, the policy decision to accept families but not single men was controversial because it is inherently discriminatory, but it does reduce the pressure to exhaustively screen the cohort most likely to be a threat: young, single men.

Experience with the refugees from Syria so far shows that they are motivated by desperate circumstances and are profoundly grateful to be accepted into a safe country like Canada – even though the January winds must come as a cruel shock.

Immigrants have also historically been the group most willing to do the “dirty jobs” that Canadians seem to feel is beneath them. There’s a good reason why you find visible minorities serving you coffee, cleaning your room and driving your cab – many native-born Canadians simply won’t do that work.

For further evidence, think of the impact of the former Conservation government’s move to restrict the supply of temporary foreign workers. Tourist destinations, fast-food outlets and other service industries complained bitterly that the choking off of workers from around the world hurt their businesses because there was no one else willing to do those jobs.

Even with such assurances, there is a real possibility that there will be an incident in which some Syrian refugee commits a crime. It has happened with previous waves of refugees, including those who fled Vietnam more than 40 years ago. It is vital that refugee-skeptics don’t seize on such isolated incidents to confirm their own biases. Recent data, in fact, suggest that crime rates in urban areas actually drop with increased immigration.

A 2008 spatial analysis of crime data released by Statistics Canada, looking at large urban centres like Toronto and Montreal, concluded that while various socio-economic factors increase crime, “the proportion of recent immigrants lowers the crime rate; it acts as a protective factor.”

In other words, as the number of immigrants increases, the crime rates drop.

There’s no question that people who have come here from desperate and terrifying circumstances may arrive with some deep emotional baggage. That’s why it is so vital for all Canadians to make them feel welcome and show them the benefits of living in a democratic and free society.

Skeptics should put their fears and biases behind them. Hang out the welcome sign.

Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media.

© Troy Media


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