It is a simple idea for bringing hundreds or perhaps thousands of Syrians to safety in Canada. It doesn't require a massive airlift.
Instead, it involves the family-class stream of the immigration system, which is separate and apart from the rules for accepting refugees.
Refugee advocates say that if government would expedite the rules by which Syrian-Canadians bring their relatives to this country to live, and let extended families come, those living in conflict zones could be brought to Canada in a matter of weeks. According to the 2011 census, there are 40,840 people living in Canada whose ethnic origin is Syrian.
"People come in and say, 'I can't sleep at night, my mother is living in Aleppo and I'm worried a bomb will fall on her house," lawyer Lorne Waldman of Toronto said in an interview. "Anyone who is Syrian in Canada is desperately trying to get their relatives out."
Usually, sponsoring relatives through the immigration system is a time-consuming process. Mr. Waldman said it lasts at least a year, and the immigration department's website says it lasts more than two years when the Canadian visa office in Lebanon, is involved. But in dangerous times, government has the authority to grant temporary residence permits quickly to relatives of Canadians, he said. Once security checks have been done – which would probably not be needed for children or the elderly – it could be a matter of weeks until relatives arrive. Their applications for permanent residence could be processed while they are in Canada.
Mr. Waldman is a representative of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, which is joining with Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and Syrian-Canadians to urge the Canadian government to expedite the family reunification process by immediately issuing the temporary residence permits.
Government also has the authority to widen the categories of relatives who can be brought in, Mr. Waldman said. Currently, the law allows for parents, spouses and children under 19 to be sponsored, but not nieces, nephews, brothers or sisters.
The benefit of using the family-reunification system to bring Syrians to safety is that "they would have their families who would provide them with support," he said.
"My experience is that when the government wants something to happen quickly in the immigration area, it happens quickly."