Following a highly emotional day in Canada after news broke that Alan Kurdi — the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach — applied to come to Canada earlier this year but was allegedly rejected in June, the government has clarified that no official request for asylum was ever made by his family to be rejected.
A statement from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration has officially denied the claim that an application was submitted for the Kurdi family, but confirmed that one was made for Alan’s uncle, Mohammad Kurdi, who was denied status because his claim “did not meet regulatory requirements.”
Fatima Kurdi, the sister of Mohammad and Abdullah Kurdi — Alan’s father — confirmed and clarified the misunderstanding Thursday in a news conference in Port Coquitlam, B.C., saying she had applied to sponsor Mohammad but did send a letter to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander through MP Fin Donnelly regarding Abdullah’s case and asking for the whole extended family to be given refugee status.
Alan’s five-year-old brother Galip, their mother Rehan and eight other refugees died when their boat overturned off the coast of Turkey. The boys’ father, Abdullah, survived.
Emotions high on campaign trail
The drama became an emotionally charged issue on the Canadian campaign trail today, with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper defending his government’s record on Syrian refugees and reiterating his vow to fight ISIS.
“Canada has an obligation to act. It would be too easy this morning to start assigning blame.”
Opposition leaders were scathing in their criticism of the government.
“As a dad and a grandfather it is just unbearable that Canada is doing nothing,” said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, likening the photo of Alan to the well-known image of a little girl burned by napalm during the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War.
“Canada has an obligation to act. It would be too easy this morning to start assigning blame,” said Mulcair. “Chris Alexander has a lot to answer for but that’s not where we are right now. We’re worried about how we got here, how the collective international response has been so defective, how Canada has failed so completely. The UN has asked us to immediately take in 10,000 … let’s do that, and then we can start from there.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused the government of “dragging its heels” on the crisis. “You don’t get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign,” he said. “You either have it or you don’t.”
He said that, if elected, the Liberals would bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. “Officials have to establish a quick process to bring these people in … What is lacking now is a political will.”
“It is simply not acceptable to pretend that you can deal with this terrible crisis by addressing one aspect of the problem.”
Harper delayed his campaign speech in Surrey, British Columbia, by almost an hour and cancelled a transit funding announcement. When he did speak, he addressed the refugee crisis and the death of of the Kurdi children and mother. He said that since the Conservatives took power, more than 2.5 million immigrants have been accepted into Canada and made the claim that Canada has the most generous refugee program in the world.
“It is simply not acceptable to pretend that you can deal with this terrible crisis by addressing one aspect of the problem. That is just not okay,” said Harper, addressing promises made by the Opposition.
He cited the military campaign against ISIS and “one of the highest humanitarian aid efforts” as other aspects of his government’s response to the crisis.
“I don’t know for the life of me how you can come to the conclusion that we must help these people but walk away from the military mission against the so-called Islamic State,” he said. “I think that’s completely irresponsible.”
Canada most generous to refugees: Chris Alexander
Former immigration minister Jason Kenney cancelled a scheduled appearance in Brampton, Ont., where he was expected to announce new measures to tighten immigration security.
Alexander suspended his re-election campaign to return to Ottawa and focus on his ministerial duties regarding the refugee crisis in Europe.
“I think Canada remains a model of humanitarian action.”
“I am meeting with officials to ascertain both the facts of the case of the Kurdi family and to receive an update on the migrant crisis,” Alexander said in a statement; he has since arrived in Ottawa to attend meetings.
“The tragic photo of young Alan Kurdi and the news of the death of his brother and mother broke hearts around the world. Like all Canadians, I was deeply saddened by that image and of the many other images of the plight of the Syrian and Iraqi migrants fleeing persecution at the hands of ISIS.”
Wednesday evening, hours before the news broke, Alexander appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics, where he verbally sparred with host Rosemary Barton over the mainstream media’s coverage of the crisis to date while defending the Harper government’s refugee record.
“I think Canada remains a model of humanitarian action,” Alexander said, adding that Canada has received “approximately 2,500” Syrian refugees and “over 20,000 Iraqi refugees”.
“We are the most generous country to refugees in the world. We take one in 10 resettled refugees annually,” he said.
Reuters had reported that Kurdi’s father was approached by the Canadian government and offered Canadian citizenship but declined. Citizenship and Immigration has denied citizenship was offered.
Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.