Justin Trudeau photostream
By: Jacob Schroeder on
John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and MP for Markham–Thornhill, in a press conference on November 24, 2015
The Liberals originally promised 25,000 government-sponsored refugees by the end of 2015. The new commitment is a total of 25,000 government-sponsored refugees by the end 2016, which substantially alters the promise.FactsCan Score: False
An election promise with a lot of attention in the early days of the Liberal government was the plan to bring 25,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Canada by the end of 2015.
Skeptics questioned if the number was doable within the short timeframe, and yet, for a while, the Prime Minister and members of Cabinet stuck to the pledge.
Then, at a press conference last week, John McCallum, the new immigration minister, announced a change in course. He maintained, however, the Liberals will have “kept our promise.”
What’s the difference between the revised plan and the initial promise? And with the change, is it possible to say the promise is kept?
First, a lot hinges on the type of incoming refugees, who can immigrate to Canada through different streams, including government or private sponsorship. Tallying them all together or separately changes the head count.
The main difference between government-sponsored and privately-sponsored refugees is that the first group is selected and financially supported by the government, while privately sponsored refugees are brought to Canada by something of a public-private partnership. Upon arrival, they are supported by private citizens.
In the government’s revised plan, 10,000 refugees will arrive in Canada by the end of 2015. The remaining 15,000 will follow by the end of February 2016.
That’s 25,000. But in the revised plan, this figure includes a mix of government and privately sponsored refugees. Postmedia News reported government officials said in a technical briefing that 15,000 would be government-sponsored.
McCallum confirmed the mix. He said, “that’s 25,000 refugees, partly private, partly government.” He continued, “through the rest of 2016, we will bring in more refugees. We will bring in government assisted refugees to make up the difference so that we will have reached the number 25,000 and thereby kept our promise.”
So that’s 25,000 private and government-sponsored refugees by the end of February 2016, and a cumulative 25,000 government-sponsored refugees by the end of December 2016.
Here’s what the Liberal party platform promised:
“Expand Canada’s intake to 25,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq through immediate, direct sponsorship by the government of Canada. We will also work with private sponsors to intake even more.”
The platform is clear on the government sponsored number of 25,000. What’s missing is the timeline. That’s not in the platform, but it was in the campaign.
At a press conference in late September, then-candidate Justin Trudeau committed to a year-end deadline. He said, “bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees between now and January 1 would require an investment of about $100 million … and that’s something that we’re looking at getting engaged in right away if we form government on October 19.”
After the election, the figure and timeline remained connected. At a press conference once in office, a reporter with Le Devoir asked Trudeau to clarify if the 25,000 by January 1 included government-sponsored refugees only, or a mix. Trudeau answered, “our promise was indeed to bring 25,000 government-sponsored refugees.”
In another interview, Lisa LaFlamme of CTV asked, “what about the promise of 25,000 refugees before New Year’s Day. How do you do that?” Trudeau responded, “that’s something that we’re getting cracking on right away.”
Our verdict is that if a promise is linked to a timeline, and the timeline substantially changes, the promise is broken. That’s because a promise without a timeline can be a bit trivial.
Spending one billion dollars in one year is different than the same amount spread over two years, or ten years. Likewise, accepting 25,000 refugees in two months is different than accepting that number over any larger unit of time.
The initial pledge was 25,000 government-sponsored refugees in two months, from November 4, the day the new government was sworn in, to December 31. The new plan is 25,000 not by the end of December, or by the end of February, but the end of December 2016.
If the Trudeau government does do this by the end of 2016, it would be keeping a new promise, but not the old one. McCallum’s claim about meeting the party’s campaign promise is false.