Should city council wade into the debate over Syrian refugees?
Kind of a moot point now, because they did.
On Monday council agreed to send a resolution to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, which will be meeting later this month, urging the federal government, in no uncertain terms, to do more the refugee crisis.
The resolution, if passed, will urge Ottawa to “review and implement significant increases and expedited processing times for its humanitarian aid and resettlement commitments.” In addition, the resolution asks the federal government to report regularly to the Canadian public its progress toward achieving its objectives.
It asks the federal government to “implement additional assistance, in partnership with the United Nations or other humanitarian organizations, to actively address the urgent needs of Syrians inside Syria, including providing assistance to those wishing to leave Syria; and … that the federal government reach out to local governments, nonprofit organizations and community groups across Canada that wish to assist in relocation efforts, providing information, advice and connections to ensure that the assistance Canadians extend to refugees is timely, appropriate and effective.”
Should municipalities be stepping into the fray?
For me, I don’t see anything wrong with it, for a few reasons.
Firstly, upper levels of government, for a long, long time now, have been downloading costs onto local government for just about everything. Local government has a right to speak up. While the costs associated with relocating Syrian refugees to Canada likely won’t be downloaded onto municipalities, settling refugees will be done at the community level, through church organizations or the recently formed Prince George Citizens For Syrian Refugee Support. Municipalities will certainly help at that level.
Regrettably, we really are heading back to feudal times when city-states were predominant, not not regional or national governments. With all the downloading from the higher up, it’s not surprising that cities are going to start throwing their weight around.
Secondly, it’s refreshing to see local politicians speaking up for the community. City councillors, (at least this one) not worried so much about party politics, can speak out. We know our two MPs are more concerned with trying to convince the community that the government is doing the right thing rather rather than being concerned with getting Prince George residents’ views to Ottawa, so someone has to speak up for the community.
This is the second time this council has done so, as it spoke out against the closure of the Veterans’ Affairs office.
We could simply say that this council is more left-leaning than the previous one, which is true. However, this council is also speaking up on issues that affect the community and that is more important and more appreciated than keeping quiet for fear of ruffling feathers.