Lewis MacKenzie says Canada must prioritize refugee widows, children

If the new Canadian government is truly serious about getting 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country by the end of 2015, one retired Canadian Forces commander says it should consider prioritizing women and children.

Retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie, who completed nine peacekeeping tours of duty and led the United Nations Protection Force in former Yugoslavia, told The West Block‘s Vassy Kepelos that security vetting is important, but the risks are not as grave as some might think.

“I can get rid of the security problem with one order, and that is find all the widowed mothers and their children, all the single mothers and their children, bring them over, ” MacKenzie said.

“With over three million refugees, there’s lots of women, lots of mothers with kids.”

READ MORE: Trudeau’s ambitious Syrian refugees pledge unrealistic: immigration lawyer

If the Liberal government is to have any hope of hitting its 25,000-person target, it will mean bringing former immigration officers out of retirement to help process applications, MacKenzie said, plus relying on vetting and processing work already being done by the United Nations in refugee camps.

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“Where the Syrians are, there’s been some processing done by UNHCR. And contrary to popular opinion, I’ve worked with them and been to camps where they’ve been operating and they do very well.”

READ MORE: US security fears led to Syrian refugee case slowdown in Canada

If January rolls around and Canada has only accepted 20,000 refugees, he added, “I don’t think anybody’s going to be terribly upset.”

Approximately 5,000 refugees from Kosovo were brought into Canada within a three-week span in 1999, MacKenzie pointed out.

The retired commander also said that Canadians have “nothing to be ashamed of” if Ottawa does indeed choose to pull out of the bombing campaign against Islamic State – one of the root causes of the refugee crisis unfolding across Europe.

“We’ve paid our dues over the last 20 years in blood and gold and lives,” he said.

“There are so many aircraft on bombing missions over there, ISIS won’t notice that we’ve gone. And that’s the important thing, because the bombing will continue at the same pace with other coalition aircraft, the French, the Brits, the Americans.”

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