Canada was lauded Monday for resettling a record number of refugees in 2016 and called upon to open its doors wider to let in their loved ones left behind.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) praised Canada for welcoming 46,700 refugees in 2016. It's the largest number of refugees admitted in one year since the implementation of the 1976 Immigration Act, the UNHCR said in a news release.
"This is a tremendous achievement which reflects Canada's longstanding tradition of welcoming refugees and assisting them with their integration into Canadian society," Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UNHCR's Canada representative, said in a news release.
"Without this support, scores of refugees would have been left in life-threatening situations and without any hope. Canada has again shown the world that successful resettlement is possible, particularly when government and civil society work together."
One of Canada's largest private sponsors of refugees, Winnipeg's Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, said it's a "remarkable achievement" that reflects the government's willingness to resettle a record number of refugees and the efforts of thousands of Canadian volunteers.
"Canadians are a compassionate people, and once again this shows it," said Hospitality House executive director Tom Denton.
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"It's wonderful we brought in all these people, but we didn't give a thought to now that they're here, they want to bring in their families. The continuing tragedy is that these 46,700 newcomers will now want to bring in their refugee families, and Canada's rules offer no specific way to do this. There has been no way to sponsor one's relatives for a quarter century, other than through the private sponsorship of refugees program that in 2017 is restricted to 7,500 refugees. The need is at least 10 times that."
Last year, Canada's refugee resettlement increased 130 per cent over 2015, in large part from welcoming Syrian refugees.
Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, said Monday that Canada is "proud to work with UNHCR to bring vulnerable refugees to our country.
"These newcomers help us build our society, culture and economy in long lasting and enduring ways," Hussen said in a prepared statement. "Canada hopes to increase global refugee resettlement and support civil society and other jurisdictions to expand resettlement along with developing other solutions for the world's most vulnerable."
The UNHCR says only one per cent of the world's refugees will ever be resettled. In the last 40 years, Canada has welcomed an estimated 700,000 refugees, it said.
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From Nov. 4, 2015 to Jan. 29, 2017 Canada resettled 40,081 Syrian refugees. The country's largest resettlement effort previously was with the Vietnamese boat people, which at its high point resulted in 40,271 refugees being admitted in 1980.
In 1986, Canada and its people received the United Nations Nansen Refugee Award in recognition of its response to the refugees involved in the "Indochinese Movement" that directly helped thousands of persecuted people start new lives Canada.
The Nansen award is named after Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen who directed the League of Nations’ first major humanitarian operation — the repatriation of 450,000 prisoners of war as Europe struggled to rebuild after the First World War. His intellect, valour and charisma proved instrumental in winning the support of governments and voluntary agencies.
Sources: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada