September 2, 2015 5:44 pm
Updated: September 2, 2015 8:43 pm

Here’s what the federal leaders had to say about the refugee crisis

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WATCH ABOVE: What’s missing in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War is a coherent policy in Europe on how to cope with all the people and the political will to apply it. But is there more we can do here in Canada? Mike Le Couteur reports.

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With the death toll climbing in the Mediterranean and thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants flooding into Europe each day, the federal leaders could not avoid addressing the situation in Europe and the worldwide refugee crisis.

READ MORE: Will this photo help people grasp the desperation of Syrian refugees?

Stephen Harper says resettlement won’t stop ISIS causing more people to become refugees

Harper extolled what Canada has already done to assist refugees and held his party’s line that ISIS is the more urgent concern that needs to be dealt with.

The Conservative leader was asked whether his commitments to bring in 20,000 refugees over four years—10,000 Syrian refugees and, if re-elected, a further 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees at risk of religious persecution —go far enough and whether Canada had “a moral responsibility to act immediately.”

Harper responded:

“Canada is the largest per capita receiver of immigrants and new arrivals in the entire world and we have already resettled some 20,000 Iraqi refugees and a couple thousand Syrian refugees— and we have plans to do more.

But, you know, I would say repeatedly that as we are doing more we can’t lose sight of the fact more refugee resettlement alone cannot, cannot, in any part of the world, solve this problem. As long as with have organizations like ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, creating literally millions of refugees and threatening to slaughter people all over the world, there is no solution to that through refugee place. We have to take a firm military stance — and that’s what we’re doing.”

WATCH: Global’s Jayme Doll speaks to a Calgary resident whose family remains in Syria. He explains why he doesn’t think Canada is doing enough to help those left behind.

Harper would only repeat his earlier statement when pressed on whether Canada needs to take a more immediate response to the crisis, rather than setting a four-year deadline to resettle 20,000 refugees — and putting much of the weight on the shoulders of private refugee sponsors.

Justin Trudeau promises a 25,000-Syrian refugee target

Liberal leader Trudeau reiterated a commitment his party made months ago, before the campaign got underway Aug. 2, saying Canada has always been an “open and welcoming” country.

“The situation faced by countless numbers of people fleeing for their lives from terrible acts of terrorism and violence is one that everyone deplores and is affected by. We see the scenes on the nightly news and all of us have the feeling that we need to do more.

READ MORE: Here’s what Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau, May, and Duceppe have promised voters

Unfortunately, this Conservative government, despite its promises, hasn’t once lived up to even its meager commitments in terms of accepting refugees from Syria and elsewhere.”

Trudeau said his party had already set a target of accepting 25,000 refugees from Syria and the region, but are “committed to doing more.”

WATCH: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau spoke about the refugee crisis in Europe and where Canada stands in helping those who need it during a campaign stop in Trois-Rivieres, Que. on Wednesday.

“To doing more to help people in their camps who are worried about things, who are fleeing for their lives, who are living in terrible conditions.”

He stopped short of saying whether Canada should be more active in helping its anti-ISIS coalition partners in Europe deal with the border security issues brought on by this mass influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. He chose instead to criticize Harper and the Conservatives on international aid and cooperation.

Tom Mulcair criticizes Conservatives for not taking refugee crisis seriously

The NDP leader said Canada has lost its place in the international community under the Conservatives and it’s time for the country “to step up to the plate” to assist with the world’s greatest displacement of people in 70 years.

“This is the worst refugee crisis, the most serious one since the Second World War. The images are horrific. Other countries are coming to the fore and taking in large numbers. In Europe, it’s a big challenge right now when you know 3,000 people* have drowned just this year you know we have an obligation to do our part. We’re going to do our part.”

[*NOTE: Mulcair said 3,000 people have drowned so far this year. As of Sept. 1, according to the International Organization for Migration, the number of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who have died trying to get to Europe by sea this year is 2,643.]

READ MORE: The European migrant crisis is only getting worse. Here’s what you need to know

Mulcair accused the Conservatives and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander of simply tossing out the number of 10,000 refugees that Canada is committed to resettle.

“But we have no idea how real that is or what time it would be.” He said Canada under an NDP government would “do its part, but didn’t specify what he saw was an acceptable number of refugees to accept.

“An NDP government will take this humanitarian crisis extraordinarily seriously, as we have to,” he said. “We want Canada to get to the point where we’re respected on the world stage and not like the Conservatives have done to us, where we’re not pulling our weight.”

Now that you know what the leaders have said, here’s a look at what Canada has done to resettle refugees affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq.

A look at different garments warn by some Muslim women.
Credit: Leo Kavanagh/Global News

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