October 8th, 2015

Paul Dewar's statement on Harper’s interference in Syrian refugee processing

We are shocked to learn today that the Prime Minister's Office ordered immigration officials to stop processing refugee applicants from Syria, and to send all UN-referred Syrian refugee applications to the PMO.

This unacceptable interference in the refugee application process seriously delayed Canada's acceptance and protection of vulnerable people from the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. This delay came at a time when the Conservative government should have been accepting refugees already cleared by the UN. Instead, under the direction of the Prime Minister, his political staff interfered with due process as the humanitarian catastrophe grew. The irresponsible actions of the Prime Minister's Office put Syrian refugees in greater danger, and may have cost lives.

Political staff should not be handling refugee applications. This case makes clear the urgent need for clear rules for political staff. The NDP has long called for a code of conduct for ministers and their staff, including those in the PMO, as recommended by the Gomery Commission.

Stephen Harper must immediately explain why his office inappropriately interfered with the processing of UN-referred refugees.