60th General Assembly November 1989 New Orleans, Louisiana
REFUGEES IN CANADA
BACKGROUND Because of its northern climate Canada did not, in earlier days, have the powerful attraction exerted by the United States. During the 19th century, it had to advertise in European papers for immigrants and promised them travel bonuses. At first there were few restrictions on who was to be admitted, but in the course of time certain xenophobic tendencies developed, especially regarding Asian immigrants. These tendencies were sharpened during the time of the Nazi persecutions, and a frankly anti-Semitic attitude prevailed in official circles, which led to a shameful record of only four thousand refugees being admitted to Canada's shores between 1933 and 1945. After the end of the Second War, however, such restrictions were dropped; Jews and other Europeans arrived en masse; and by the 70's the country became equally hospitable to Asian and African immigrants. Canada became a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, and its policies were generous, especially with regard to the Vietnamese "boat people." In time, Canada became a land which harbored people from every corner of the earth. It did not aim to be a "melting pot" on the old American mode; rather by official policy it favored the maintenance of diverse national traditions in a policy of multiculturalism.
Today, however, this openness no longer prevails. American and European restrictive practices have been adopted in Canada as well, though not without vigorous opposition from many quarters. The proposed resolution reflects the latter point of view.
THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:
Congratulate the Canadian people for receiving a special award by the United Nations which praises the humane policies which were in recent years the hallmark of Canadian immigration and refugee policies.
Acknowledge the readiness of the Canadian government to extend its immigration levels for the next year and encourage it to be the most generous with regard to family reunification.
View with grave apprehension the recent tendency of Canadian policy to act contrary to its professed generous goals.
Call attention to the fact that, especially in matters of refugees, current Canadian legislation has not reflected the generous spirit which it professed to exercise in that these laws focus on abusers more than genuine refugees and thereby reflect a spirit of exclusion rather than acceptance.
Urge the Canadian government to revise its present refugee legislation to bring it into line with the recommendations of the UN High Commission on Refugees and especially to:
Eliminate "safe country" provisions not only in practice but also in law and;
Provide for a fairer review process for "inland" refugee determination.
Encourage the Canadian government to review the traditional perception of immigrants as a drain on the public purse; while on the contrary, experience proves immigrants to be a major source of new national wealth.
Urge the Canadian government to make the Canadian people fully aware of their global responsibilities and of the enviable opportunity of their rich and wide open land to accommodate many additional immigrants and refugees who seek to make it their home.
Urge the government of Canada to combat xenophobic tendencies arising in many parts of the country and do so with much more vigor than heretofore and thereby to translate the avowed generosity of the Canadian people into common national practice.