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The humanitarian disaster in Europe – brought home by the shocking image of a drowned Syrian child – and Canada's response to the refugee challenge drew strong, often heartfelt, reactions from readers, both print and digital

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The poignant front-page picture of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach should fill us all with shame that nothing is being done by Canada to rescue these refugees (A Migrant Crisis, A Moral Crisis, Sept. 3). We should be sending planes to pick up these refugees and give them safe haven. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's suspension of his election campaign is disgracefully hypocritical. These past years, he had the power to act. But all the government has done is put up all kinds of barriers to entry.

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Zina Maher, Unionville, Ont.

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I am disappointed that The Globe and Mail would publish a photo of a dead toddler on a beach in Turkey but I am even more disappointed in the cold response from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper (Harper Rejects Calls To Take In More Syrian Refugees, Sept. 4). Canada may not be able to solve the problem of the war in Syria and Iraq or the absolute poverty in many of the Middle East and African countries where people are streaming from, but we could do a lot more to help with this European disaster.

David Bell, Etobicoke

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Mr. Harper's response underscores the need not for military action but for a change of government.

The appropriate response to this crisis is to immediately take action to accept some of these desperate people. All able countries should be sharing Europe's burden and accepting some war refugees. We should immediately allow accelerated immigration for those refugees with close relatives in Canada and then take a share of desperate families, particularly those with young children.

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We used to be a country that favoured family reunification, but 10 years of regressive immigration policies have changed that. I am ashamed of my country and my government's response.

Tania Watts, Toronto

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Any child's death is a tragedy, but to blame Canada and its government for this is ridiculous. We should be giving assistance, but that does not include opening our doors to further overload our resources and infrastructure. Help deal with the problem where the problem originates.

Rob MacArthur, Ajax, Ont.

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For a rich and generous country built largely by immigrants, Canada's response to the Syrian refugee crisis has been abysmal. As of March, Canada had only just met its 2013 commitment to resettle an underwhelming 1,300 refugees from Syria. If the government is truly committed, why does it expect 60 per cent of the refugees to be sponsored by private groups?

Thank goodness so many caring and compassionate Canadians have risen to the challenge, such as the group we are proud to be a part of as we wait to welcome a refugee family into our community later this month.

Robin Moss, Ancaster, Ont.

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Lebanon, with 4.5 million people, has absorbed one million Syrian refugees. In three years, Canada has admitted about 2,400 Syrian refugees. Why hasn't the government established a major visa processing capacity in Lebanon to take at least some of the burden off that country?

I am ashamed by the response of the Harper government to this crisis. It has turned a blind eye to the instincts Canadians of all backgrounds have about doing our fair share to address this tragedy that continues to unfold.

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Nancy Lawand, Ottawa

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The photo of the little boy's body washed up on the beach utterly broke my heart. He and his family were trying to escape the horrors of Syria in the same way Jewish people tried to escape Nazi Germany.

My father came here from England after the Second World War to escape the destruction and the class system, and was grateful to Canada for his chance for a new life. How many of us have ancestors who came here because of disaster at home, be it famine or war? I hope the image of the little body touches people's hearts and we will force our government to act – or change our government.

Audrey Pearson, Vancouver

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This is not a remote issue. Canada's most important resource is her people, many of whom are children of immigrants. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not just a bunch of words. Refugees, refugee claimants, displaced persons and immigrants have the right to seek asylum, to a dignified life.

Canadians have unique obligations to improve our domestic programs and contribute leadership to international solutions for the refugee crisis.

Diana Wielgus, Toronto

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The European Union is being blamed for not acting or not acting fast enough in response to the refugee crisis. And rightly so. But what about Canada? Can't we open our doors just a little bit more, as we did in the 1970s when we took in an estimated 60,000 Vietnamese "boat people"?

Janine Diddens, Victoria

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Your editorial importunes the Canadian government to make immediate, substantial, and meaningful changes to immigration policy to alleviate the shocking suffering splayed across the front pages, and indeed, across Europe.

Canadians with a conscience and a heart would doubtless support such a call to action; the trouble is, as your editorial states, that Ottawa is reacting slowly and "has admitted it has run into difficulties ... without giving hard numbers."

Until Canadians' votes reflect our wish for a more transparent, humane society, we are as responsible as our government for shameful, narrow-minded representation.

Maribeth Adams, Kamloops, B.C.

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Let's be clear about the nature of the West's moral responsibility in the migrant crisis. It is not simply that thousands and thousands of people are suffering and need our aid, which is true and more than enough reason to act.

But the moral imperative is deeper; it is based on culpability. The colonial and post-colonial eras sowed the seeds of the current instability and suffering in the Mideast, Africa and Latin America. Islamic State is exacerbating the situation, but is hardly the cause.

Trace the history of any of the problem areas and it is not hard to find major (and ultimately destabilizing) Western involvement. Western countries, including Canada, have grown rich on the backs of the people of the rest of the world. Those people are now knocking on our doors. We must open them.

James Johnson, Toronto

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What is missing in the fix for these refugee disasters is the absence of a call for the oil-rich brethren of the Syrian refugees – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, UAE and others – to step up, give aid and invite immigration for these unfortunate people. Especially in light of the fact that several of these countries are partially or fully responsible for the tragedy that is unfolding and are making no efforts to end these disasters.

Tom Weinberger, Scarborough, Ont.

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Time maybe for the rich Arab countries to do something for these people? The EU is overwhelmed.

Jon F. Klaus, Ottawa

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To justify publishing that horrific photo so prominently on the grounds that we need to confront this tragedy is like closing the barn doors after the horses have bolted.

Atrocities have been going on for ages, and Canada happily trades with Syria's largest trading partners, so we blew our chance for humanitarian diplomacy long ago. But wait, here's a photo that makes people cry, so now we're going to shock readers and hope everything changes?

Eric de Vos, Canmore, Alta.

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It is time for Canada to actively get some of the asylum seekers to a safe haven – Canada. The New Brunswick government acknowledges that we do not have enough children to fill our schools, and is closing schools and sacking teachers. Meanwhile, thousands of our people have gone to Alberta. We could easily absorb some newcomers.

This huge problem is not going to go away no matter how much we look the other way. These people who have fled from groups such as Islamic State are heading to the West because they want a decent life, not because they want to cause trouble. Canada is a vast, underpopulated country with an infrastructure that can and should support a much bigger population.

Here is our opportunity to help in a very real way some of these now stateless peoples.

Alison Luckett, Sussex, N.B.

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The Globe was right to publish the front-page picture of the drowned toddler in Turkey. The body of one small child on a beach cries more loudly for action than a whole volume of statistics. Stephanie Nolan's article about the young people fleeing El Salvador reminds us that the refugee situation is not only a European problem (No Way Out, Focus, Aug. 29). We have it in North America, even if the relatively small populations of the Central American countries may make it seem less acute.

Alan H. Batten, Victoria

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