On refugees, a rethink is not renunciation


(Mayor David Henderson, right, leads an early refugee assistance meeting in September.)

Twitter can be a more than helpful tool when one populates one's Twitter feed with intelligent people.

One of the more intelligent tweets I have encountered in the wake of Friday's barbaric attacks in Paris came from Julie Lenarz, founder and executive director of a think tank called the Human Security Centre, who had this to say about the expected impact of the terror attack on the refugee situation.

Here at the local level, anyone working closely with the Brockville Refugee Assistance Committee will already be familiar with “those who think... all refugees are potential terrorists.”

We can expect that chorus to get louder, as a growing number of people broaden the focus of their justifiable anger from the Paris attackers, and the vast ISIS-led or ISIS-inspired network that directed them, to the broader Muslim population.

When taken too far, this kind of thinking can have criminal and potentially tragic consequences. We saw this already on the weekend, not too far from home in Peterborough.

I'll turn to a tweet from a Canadian journalist to sum up what I consider the most pertinent – not to mention obvious – response: If the West closes its doors, the terrorists win. This is particularly true because a great many of those refugees are fleeing ISIS in the first place.

It's important, however, not to stray into 'la la land.'

The fact is, ISIS stated publicly, shortly after the Alan Kurdi tragedy started a worldwide movement toward greater refugee assistance, that it would use this large-scale refugee migration from the Middle East to infiltrate the West.

It would appear, tragically, that ISIS was successful.

This is why a rethink is necessary: Not of whether we should take in refugees, but of how we must do so.

It becomes urgently important to find out how, exactly, these terrorists thwarted the asylum process and managed to get far enough to execute their diabolical plan. It becomes important to learn the lessons of this mistake and refine our screening process, as best we can.

Two days after the terrorists' barbaric acts, details are emerging suggesting the link between the refugee flow and the Paris attacks is more complicated than it seems.

In light of this, the new Liberal government's stated intention to take in 25,000 refugees by year's end seems decidedly imprudent – not the 25,000 goal, but rather the accelerated timeline.

Surely, there is a humane way of helping these people on the ground while the appropriate authorities discover what went terribly wrong with the admission process.

It's been said the best way to defeat radical Islam is to demonstrate to the Islamists' followers that we in the West won't be made intolerant by acts of extremist intolerance.

I would suggest we amend this principle. If indeed the West is the civilization of Reason, then we must demonstrate to the world that our response to atrocities will be appropriate and driven by reason.

That means going after those who pulled the puppet strings of the Paris attackers (I disagree with pulling out of the military campaign against ISIS, but that is a separate discussion); tightening, as best we can, the screening process; and not giving in to a politics of xenophobia that could, on the other side of the Atlantic, go so far as to break apart the European Union.

Back home, at the micro-local level occupied by the Brockville Refugee Assistance Committee, that means not giving up on the humanitarian goal of resettling genuine refugees here – an objective, I would remind you, that is infused with Christian spirit – but rather rethinking how we go about the process.

That process, we have learned to date, is complicated and painfully bureaucratic.

However, in the wake of the tragedy in Paris, we may have to make it slower still, and more complicated still, as we ensure those entrusted with bringing these people here are doubling down on due diligence.

(Update: Since I first wrote these words, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has come under fire for urging the prime minister to do exacly what I wrote about here - slow down the process in the interests of proper screening. I note that he has been unfairly tarred as anti-refugee. Let me state: Seekers of close-the-border xenophobes can find much viler characters out there than someone who merely urges us to take in refugees responsibly.)