Skip to main content

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in Markham, Ontario, on Monday, August 10, 2015.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Conservatives are promising to bring 10,000 additional refugees from Syria and Iraq if re-elected — despite refusing to say whether thousands of others from the war-torn region have already been resettled.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the party would meet the new commitment over four years by targeting refugees from religious minority groups in the region who face persecution or the threat of extremist violence.

In 2013, the Conservative government promised to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees by end of 2014, but took until last March to do it.

Story continues below advertisement

Then in January, the government committed to a further 10,000 resettlements over the next three years, but has steadfastly refused to say how many have actually arrived. Harper said Monday that some 2,500 refugees from Syria are now in Canada.

As for Iraq, Harper said the government is on track to resettle 23,000 Iraqis by the end of the year. The Tories had committed to resettle 20,000 in 2009.

Federal spending under the pledge would be tied to just how much private sponsors, such as religious groups, are able to spend on resettling refugees accepted to come to Canada.

As he spoke in a gym where the crowd included Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Coptics and Buddhists as well as recently landed refugees, Harper was flanked by Jason Kenney, the Conservative pointman on ethnic outreach.

The Tories have long targeted those ethnic communities, among others, through activities designed to pull them into the Conservative tent come election time. But the ridings that straddle the spot where the announcement was made are Liberal red going into the October vote.

The two ridings, however, have sizeable immigrant populations: Scarborough-Agincourt and Markham-Unionville land in the top 20 ridings for recent immigrants and total immigrants, respectively, based on Statistics Canada numbers. The Greater Toronto area itself represents a sizeable population of religious groups, all of whom could help Tories win seats and maintain their hold on power.

Harper's announcement included a multimillion-dollar pledge to fund groups that are trying to protect places of worship and religious artifacts targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Story continues below advertisement

The Conservatives want to spend $9-million over three years on the project through a fund overseen by the Office of Religious Freedom that the Conservatives created in 2013. The proposal would boost the office's budget by 60 per cent.

Various groups, including the American military and militias fighting ISIL, have tried with varying levels of success to protect religious shrines, buildings and monuments. Harper didn't identify any one particular artifact or building the money being pledged would have saved.

He said groups working on the ground to protect these spots work in "very precarious" situations.

"They have very little funding so we think it will help them significantly," Harper said.

After the announcement, Harper and his family went to a South Asian clothing and gift store in Scarborough where they looked over bracelets and materials for a sari. A lineup of women and teens in traditional garb stood behind a long counter as the Harpers looked over fabrics and jewelry.

At one point, Laureen Harper appeared to have found something she liked, and then she was told it carried a steep price. "No wonder I like it," she joked.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter