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As the refugee crisis continues, with thousands of people fleeing crisis in the Middle East. Canada has been proactive in taking steps to accept Syrian refugees despite citizens’ concerns over security after the horrific Paris attacks orchestrated by ISIS. While it is in Canadian spirit to be accepting and receive these refugees with open arms, there is also the appropriate way of doing so. Trudeau has faced criticism regarding his original plan to bring in 25,000 Syrians by the end of this year, with 51 percent of Canadians disapproving of his plan to settle Syrians across Canada. Since the backlash, Trudeau has backtracked but not necessarily in the most diligent manner. The new refugee settlement plan consists of accepting 25,000 Syrians by the end of February 2016, but the most controversial and illogical aspect of the new plan is the rejection of unaccompanied or single straight adult men.
In an interview with CBC, Trudeau claims that Canada will not be accepting single adult men right away because he claims that the most vulnerable should be given priority. While he says this decision is not final, his statement raises the question of whether vulnerability is really the reason for this decision? If it is, then are these young, single men not more vulnerable to recruitment by ISIS? If one of Canada’s goals is to put an end to ISIS’ terror, then openly discriminating against single Syrian men is not the best way of showing support. In fact, this decision could have serious implications in terms of who ISIS chooses to target during their enrolment process, because the men who feel excluded by a country that claims to be all-embracing may be more inclined to find a home with the terror group. This is not as far-fetched an idea as it may seem, considering the propaganda ISIS uses to draw men and women in. They are made to feel wanted and accepted. This new adjustment to Trudeau’s plan is short-sighted and illogical because it can be argued that single men are just as vulnerable as single women. Perhaps their vulnerabilities manifest differently, but they exist nonetheless.
Another explanation could be that Trudeau’s exclusion of single men is for security reasons. There is a great concern among many Canadians that a mass movement of Syrian refugees into the country could allow terrorists to slip under the radar. Yet, while it may be more common to see male ISIS members in online propaganda videos and on the ground initiating attacks, it is wrong to assume that single men are the most high-risk. Even though the Canadian government has not directly said that this is the reason for excluding single Syrian males, it surely sends a questionable message. Not only is it wrong to discriminate against single men, while men who have families are welcome, it is naïve to think that these men are the only ones capable of working for ISIS undercover and spreading terror in Canada. In fact, one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks was 26-year-old female Hasna Aitboulahcen, who also opened fire on police when they approached her flat, with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Experts have said that the risk of a terrorist getting into Canada during refugee settlement is slim, but even if it is a concern it should not manifest itself as discrimination against one gender over the other. The reality is that yes, there are risks associated with accepting a large number of refugees in a short period of time. However, a better way of responding to Canadians’ criticisms is to extend the timeline of Syrian integration into Canada. They can still be protected abroad during the process, but there is value in ensuring the settlement of refugees is done in a safe, controlled manner without leaving one group in the dust with no firm promise of acceptance in the near future.