Canada's Syrian refugee policy raises concerns about gender discrimination

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The Liberal government's plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada will be extended by two months to February 2016, according to the country’s immigration minister.

      The federal government announced on Tuesday (November 24) that it will identify all 25,000 refugees by December 31, with 10,000 arriving by the end of the year and the remainder by February.

      Canada will be working with the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and with the United Nations Refugee Agency.

      Refugees will be admitted in Montreal or Toronto and continue on to 36 destination cities.

      Initial reports on November 23 ahead of the announcement aroused concerns that single men would not be accepted as part of the resettlement program.

      After the announcement, the CBC reported that refugees will include complete families, women at risk, gays and lesbians, and single men identified as vulnerable due being a part of the LGBT community or those who are accompanying parents as part of a family.

      Although the policy includes sensitivity towards LGBT people, local gay Syrian immigrant Danny Ramadan had concerns about gender discrimination. Ramadan, who is Qmunity's volunteer coordinator, volunteers with the organization Rainbow Refugee, which helps LGBT refugees and is sponsoring a lesbian refugee in Turkey.

      "Straight or gay or whatever, a single man who is a refugee is not by default a possible terrorist," he said in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight. "That's discriminatory."

      While he said he found the announcement of Canada's efforts to bring Syrian refugees to Canada a positive one, he would prefer to see Canada continue its policy as in past, based on security checks, rather than gender.

      Ramadan also noted how the public dialogue about Syrian refugees has swung from one extremity to another after events reported in the media.

      "Three months ago, we were talking about how we should support Syrian refugees following a picture of a drowned child on the Mediterranean," he said. "Then a couple of weeks ago, when the Paris attacks happened, folks switched the language completely. While honestly, the Paris attack was not done by a Syrian nor by a refugee, it was mostly done by people who are from European nationalities."

      The Canadian government will allocate up to $678 million over six years towards the resettlement and integration of Syrian refugees in Canada. A five-phase process will include identifying refugees to come to Canada, processing, transporting, welcoming, and settling refugees.

      The Canadian government has launched a website devoted to Syrian refugees in Canada.

      Ramadan hopes that Canadians can remember to recognize the individual stories of Syrian refugees.

      "I just wish that we can actually look at individuals, as people, who are running away from situations that are horrible and running away from terrorism, running away from the Syrian regime, and not look at them as an entity that we need to either support or protect, just look at every single one of them and try to help as much as we can." 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at