Demonstrations in cities throughout Canada urged the country’s government to open its arms to more of the thousands of refugees seeking shelter from the Syrian civil war and other war-torn regions. Calls for action erupted this week after a graphic photo of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy found dead on a Greek beach, brought global attention to the refugee crisis.
Hundreds of protestors marched in downtown Montreal, calling on Canadian officials to offer compassion and accept more refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. That demonstration was one of 18 “Refugees Welcome” protests that occurred through Canada.
More than 4 million Syrians have fled their homes since 2011, amid clashes between government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebel groups, as well as the rise last year of the Islamic State, which seized vast tracts of territory in Syria and Iraq. Countries throughout Europe and the world at large have struggled to cope with the influx of refugees. More than 300,000 refugees have entered Europe since January 2015.
— Emily Brass (@EmilyBrass) September 5, 2015
To date, the Canadian government has settled about 2,500 Syrian refugees, and so far has committed to accept 11,300 Syrians in the next three years, the Canadian Press reported. But opposition parties, including the New Democrats and the Liberals, are calling for a sizable expansion of that plan.
The New Democrats proposed a plan that would settle 10,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of 2015 and an additional 9,000 refugees annually through 2019. The Liberals are calling for the acceptance of 25,000 refugees by the end of the year through federal intervention. Separately, the mayors of several major Canadian cities, including Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, called for timely aid for refugees, CBC reported.
“Time and time again, Canadians have responded to humanitarian disasters with generosity,” New Democrats Party foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said, according to the Canadian Press.
Across the border, politicians and advocates in the United States have called on President Barack Obama’s administration to settle more Syrian refugees within the country’s borders. A group of U.S. senators urged Obama in a letter to accept at least 65,000 refugees, the New York Times reported. Detractors warn any acceptance of refugees on a large scale could leave the country vulnerable to infiltration by would-be terrorists.