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Part 4: Current Context

Photo of Syrian survivors rescuing babies.

The civil war in Syria

In early September 2015 the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed ashore on a Turkish beach. His family was just one of thousands fleeing the brutal conflict in Syria in search of safety in Europe, and in Canada. Thousands of refugees, particularly women and children remain in countries close to conflicts where they are at risk of gender based violence including rape and being forced to trade sexual favours for shelter and food. Canadians reacted to this tragedy with an overwhelming expression of good will through offers to sponsor and assist refugees. Amnesty International welcomes the government’s announcement that it has reached its goal to resettle 25,000 Syria refugees. The response to the Syrian refugee crisis thus far, indicates that with time, resources and commitment Canada can resettle refugees in a timely manner.

With no immediate end in sight to the crisis in Syria, and ongoing resettlement needs of refugees from other world regions, the government must develop longer term plans for substantial resettlement efforts in the coming years. In order to meet these needs, significant resources are needed to ensure that resettlement is done successfully, sustainably and on a non-discriminatory basis.

Map of the Syrian war

The conflict in Syria has resulted in the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Over four million people have fled the fighting with more leaving every day. Most are in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan where resources are stretched beyond the breaking point.

A growing number of refugees are faced with the impossible choice of remaining in desperate conditions or making terrifying journeys and risking their lives to escape endless suffering.


Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.

Humanitarian Crisis

The biggest humanitarian crisis since WWII

Refugee crisis in numbers: According to the UN around 250,000 people have been killed and 13.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria. More than 50% of Syria’s population is currently displaced. One-in-every-two of those crossing the Mediterranean this year – half a million people – were Syrians escaping the conflict in their country.

Map of Syrians in neighbouring countries and Europe.

How do Canadians feel about refugees and Islam?

Canadian supporters with flags


From a 2016 Ontario-wide survey commissioned by OCASI:


Feel immigration is a core value of our cultural identity.


Feel we should only allow immigrants from countries that have similar values to our own.


Feel it is part of our responsibility to bring in refugees.


Feel we need to be more strict about what kind of immigrants we accept.

Key conclusions

  1. Immigrants are perceived as being valuable but less worthy than those who already live here.
  2. There are imbalances in the worth of immigrants relative to ‘the people here’.
  3. They are seen as valuable to society but less deserving of our resources.
  4. Acceptance of immigrants is not without limits.
  5. Islam is seen as a culture that fosters gender inequality.
  6. 32% of Ontarians have clearly an unfavourable opinion of Islam.
  7. More than 50% of Ontarians believe Islam encourages violence.
  8. 75% of Ontarians feel that Muslim immigrants have fundamentally different values.

The development of mathematics in Europe in the 12th century was sparked by the translation into Latin of Arabic mathematical work of Al-Khawarizm in, which introduced the Arabic numerals and the Zero to Europeans.

Bill C-51

6 Things you need to be concerned about

  1. Bill C-51 drastically expands the definition of 'security.'
  2. It gives the government too much discretion to pick and choose which individuals and groups to target for further scrutiny.
  3. It will severely chill freedom of expression.
  4. It will allow government institutions like Health Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to share information about you with the RCMP.
  5. Canada already has a troubling regime of preventative arrest and detention; Bill C-51 proposes to make it even worse.
  6. It would give CSIS the power to act like a police force, while still allowing it to operate secretly as an intelligence gathering service.

By Alyssa Stryker and Carmen Cheung. Carmen Cheung is a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. Alyssa Stryker is the organization's caseworker. To find out more about Bill C-51, see the Bill C-51 Primer reference on p.69.

La Fontaine found his inspiration for his Fables in the Arabic translation of a Persian classic Kalila and Dimna. This Arabic/Pahlavi work was itself derived from the Sanscrit Fables of Bidpai.