Stephen Harper is defending his government’s approach to the growing Syrian refugee crisis, stating that his government is taking in more refugees but is also delivering humanitarian aid and acting militarily to address the root cause of the crisis.
The Prime Minister and his team scrapped their planned partisan event in Surrey, B.C., and the Conservative leader instead made a statement and took questions following reports that the family of the Syrian boy found drowned on a Turkish beach had tried without success to get to Canada.
Mr. Harper was sombre as he described the moment that he and his wife first saw the image of young Alan Kurdi’s dead body washed up on the Turkish shore.
“Yesterday Laureen and I saw on the Internet the picture of this young boy, Alan, dead on the beach,” he said. “The first thing that crossed our mind was, you know, remembering our own son Ben at that age, running around like that. It brings tears to your eye. I think that is the reaction of every parent.”
The Conservative government promised in July to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years. During the campaign, the Conservatives promised to accept an additional 10,000 Syrians and Iraqis over four years. Mr. Harper stood by that pledge Thursday.
In response to questions about Canada’s refugee policy, Mr. Harper said the Conservatives have already promised to do more. However he highlighted the fact that his party, unlike the opposition, is part of the international military coalition that is bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.
“Millions of people are being pursued, slaughtered by the so-called Islamic State and its allies and we have to do something about that,” he said.
“And I don’t know how you look at these images and conclude we should walk away and let those people be killed because we don’t want to participate in a military engagement. I think that’s completely irresponsible. Our reaction is we’re doing everything. We need to do more. We will do more on every front.”
Mr. Harper was supposed to do a photo opportunity and bolster the campaigns of local Conservative candidates Dianne Watts and Harpreet Singh, who are running in Surrey.
Both campaign points were scrubbed.