A criticism of Canada’s criteria for accepting Syrian refugees
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
When I was eight years old, I was obsessed with the disaster that was the Titanic. While my peers were collecting Neopets, I was collecting knowledge on a ship that sank 84 years before my birth. My repertoire of knowledge exceeded that of most adults.
The Titanic and the Syrian refugee crisis share a few commonalities, including the excessive number of scared people crammed into tiny boats, or them sailing into dangerous waters during the dark of the night. Yet the similarity that struck me most was the enforcement of “women and children first.”
The concept of “women and children first” in the face of crisis is one that ages back far into history. It happened during the sinking of the Titanic, and now it’s happening as Canada takes in Syrian refugees.
Granted, Canada isn’t only taking in women and children; men are being allowed through, but under strict regulations and priorities. Essentially, men who are part of a complete family or are part of a sexual minority are being permitted, while single men are left behind in Syria or the dangerous seas.
Don’t get the wrong idea here—it fills my heart with joy that Canada is (mostly) accepting refugees with open arms. Yet how wide are these arms really open?
Why allow single women into the country but not single (straight) men? Is this supposed to be Canada’s idea of chivalry to refugees? These people don’t need an outdated and sexist medieval code. They need a home where they can sleep without the fear of being abducted, bombed, and/or murdered in the night.
Some have argued that this criteria for taking in refugees is a way to protect those most vulnerable in Syria. Yet I believe that everyone is vulnerable in Syria—that’s the reason so many are jumping ship from their home country to begin with. Single men have a greater risk of being recruited, whether by influence or force, by a violent group. Whether that be the rebel alliance, the nationalists, ISIS, or Al-Qaeda, there are no groups that have clean hands in this conflict.
By pushing away these Syrian men, we are telling them that as a man, it is their duty to be brave in the face of adversity. However, expecting men to put on a brave front consistently may be “honourable,” but it is unrealistic. The groups fighting in Syria have not fought honourably. So why should we expect innocent men to not be afraid? I’m certain that if you lived in a state where danger was as common as Starbucks, you would be afraid too. Being male does not exempt you from fear.
How does this acceptance process benefit Canada most? Sure, there may be gender parity amongst children and youth, but what about the adult population? It may lead to a population deficit between males and females. As we’ve seen around the world, vast differences in a population’s sex can create a problematic imbalance.
It is time we sailed away from the archaic idea that is “women and children first” and think of what will benefit the overall population best. Then we will find our way into calm waters.