In Search of Safe Haven
by Harold Troper Ontario Institute for Studies in Education


In recent years, Canada has led Western nations in offering safe haven to those who require it. The passion with which nation-states around the world inflict suffering on their own citizens has created millions of refugees. Conservative estimates count 30 million people who are currently in flight for fear of persecution in their homelands. The majority are women and children. One can only guess at how many more would take refuge elsewhere if there were an "elsewhere" to which they could escape, or if the persecution they endure did not foreclose the possibility of escape. And although it is essential to keep statistics on the global refugee crisis so that international aid personnel can track the flow of refugees and allocate necessary resources, these horrific numbers may also make it difficult for even the most caring Canadian to relate to the refugee issue.

When faced with the spectre of tens of millions at risk, can one be faulted for concluding that the world refugee crisis is so large that only governments acting in concert can deal with it? What impact can any one Canadian have in the face of such human tragedy? And with tens of millions in need of a safe haven, can opening Canada's doors to one refugee or even five families make a difference?

There can be no other answer. Yes. When confronted by such statistics, it is imperative that one not lose sight of the fact that each of those tens of millions is a single person. Indeed, it is said that by saving one life, it is as if you have saved the world.

No doubt R 5001 3210 would understand. Who is R 5001 3210? He is (or rather he was) a refugee. In 1980 he fled from the certainty of political repression in Vietnam into the unknown future of a Thai refugee camp. To friends and family left behind in Vietnam, he was Pham, The Trung, a creative man who spoke eloquently through the artistic imagination that remains his voice. The perilous sea voyage in a 10-metre-long fishing boat that brought him and fifty-eight other exhausted escapees to asylum in Thailand cost him more than his life's savings. It threatened to rob him of his sense of place, his roots, and his identity. In the Thai refugee camp where he was placed, Pham, The Trung became R 50013210, just one more refugee case file among all the others waiting to be processed.

What would become of him? He had made one of the most difficult decisions he would ever have to make - to flee his home. He had taken his life and a few possessions in his own hands and now, as a refugee, the power to determine his future was in the hands of others. Memories of Vietnam faded as R 5001 3210 hoped for a new tomorrow. He applied to come to Canada and waited for his number to come up on a list of those to be permanently resettled in a land where he might again be known as Pham, The Trung.

In recent years, Canada has not been just a country of second asylum. It has also become a country of first asylum as individuals seeking a safe harbour from persecution make their way to Canada and request asylum. In such cases, Canada has been forced to develop its own procedures for determining who is and who is not a refugee. But whether as a country of first or second asylum, Canada and Canadians are now major players in determining the plight of refugees throughout the world. Since the end of World War II, almost half a million refugees have come to Canada to reclaim their lives.

In 1980, R 5001 3210 was approved for resettlement in Canada. He reclaimed his life and his name - Pham, The Trung. The story of Pham, The Trung is celebrated on this site together with those of other individual refugees or refugee families who found safe haven in Canada from the strife of the former Czechoslovakia, Chile, Somalia, and Sri Lanka. What do they and thousands of other refugees who sought refuge in Canada have in common? Many came to Canada under special resettlement programs or provisions of the immigration law designed to alleviate the plight of refugees by offering Canada as a new home and, in the process, they bound their futures together with all other Canadians.

It was not always thus. During the worst refugee crisis of the modern era - the years of Nazi terror - Canada was found wanting. For those who would ultimately be consigned to the death camps and crematoria, an uncaring world was divided into two parts: a part where they dared not stay and a part that they could not enter. Canada was among the latter. It offered no haven and was determined to ignore the pleas of those for whom rejection meant certain death.

In the years since World War II, Canada has gradually emerged as one of the world's major refugee-receiving nations, but this transition has not been smooth or universally embraced by past Canadian governments or the Canadian people. Indeed, for much of the past fifty years, Canada had no active refugee policy. On the contrary, Canada resisted the notion that it should be a haven to the persecuted. Canada admitted refugees, but until the late 1970s, Canada made no specific provision in law to do so. Those persons in flight from fear of persecution who were admitted into Canada, including refugees from the Hungarian uprising of 1956 and the Soviet repression of the Prague Spring in 1967, were admitted, in part, because they were able to satisfy exacting conditions placed on regular immigrants or because a specific exception to the immigration legislation was approved by Cabinet. Only in the late 1970s did Canada change its immigration policy and law to offer asylum to those with a legitimate fear of persecution and, as a result, affirm an ongoing commitment to resettlement in Canada as a legal and moral responsibility.

How did this change in policy, law, and attitude come about? Certainly there was little to encourage change in this direction in the immediate post-World War II era. While the cheers of victory celebrations still echoed in their ears, most Canadians gave little thought to postwar refugees or any other would-be immigrants. A wall of restriction kept most people out. Existing laws prohibited immigration of Asians and restricted immigration from eastern and southern Europe; nor was there any public clamour to open Canada's door to refugees, especially not to the hundreds of thousands of Displaced Persons (DPs) who were temporarily sheltered in camps in Germany, Austria and Italy. Instead, Canada initially approved of the repatriation of DPs back to their original countries of citizenship. The government reasoned that if everyone went home, there would be no DPs. When it became obvious that as many as a million persons would not voluntarily return home, in particular Jewish holocaust survivors for whom Europe was a massive graveyard and eastern Europeans who rejected return to homelands that were by then under Soviet domination, Canadian authorities denied that Canada had any obligation, moral or otherwise, to offer new homes to the homeless.

But thousands of DPs did eventually enter Canada as part of a major economic expansion of Canada's labour force. Indeed, throughout most of the postwar decades, the single most important factor influencing Canadian policy was economic self-interest. At the end of the war, without the stimulant of massive war-related spending, many policy planners anticipated that Canada and the West in general would slip back into a 1930s-like depression. But they were wrong. After a lurching start, the postwar Canadian economy expanded rapidly. For the first time since the onset of the Great Depression, the problem was a shortage of goods, not money; of labour, not jobs.

Of course, not all Canadians agreed that building prosperity with the labour of immigrants who were previously considered undesirable on racial and ethnic grounds, especially Jewish and Slavic DPs, was a good idea. Barely a year after the end of World War II, a public opinion poll found that Canadians preferred Germans over Jews as immigrants. Only the Japanese, the other of Canada's major wartime enemies, fared worse than Jews.

But the industrial sectors needed labour, and immigration was a prime source of it. When it became apparent that the United Kingdom, the United States, and western Europe (particularly the Netherlands) could not fill all of Canada's labour needs, the government and labour-intensive industries were forced to look further afield. Business warned that the economic boom hinged on imported labour and pressed Ottawa to skim off the cream of the labour pool languishing in the DP camps of Europe. While they began processing candidates in DP camps, immigration officials remained mindful of the Canadian public's desire to ensure that arrivals, including refugees, be "racially" acceptable. As they scoured the DP camps of Europe for immigrants, prospects were judged in a descending order of ethnic preference. Refugees from the Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), described as hard-working "Nordic types," were ranked higher than Slavic applicants, and Slavs ranked higher than Jews. In holding fast to their ethnic hierarchy of admissibility, immigration personnel were following Prime Minister Mackenzie King's lead. In May 1947, as Canada first began processing immigration applications, including those of refugees from the Displaced Persons camps of Europe, the Prime Minister reflected well the national mood when he cautioned that "the people of Canada do not wish to make a fundamental alteration in the character of their people through mass immigration."

Gradually, however, with the market for labour in Canada still strong and government officials satisfied that the Canadian public was more receptive to the arrival of DPs than originally anticipated, larger numbers of Jews and other eastern Europeans previously regarded as undesirable were admitted. But there were limits to Canada's new openness, and these limits were also racial. Restrictions against Asians and other non-whites remained intact.

For 10 years after the end of World War II, thousands of those displaced by the political turmoil of postwar Europe came to Canada. They found homes and rebuilt their lives. In the process, they provided much of the labour needed to drive the Canadian economy and helped chart Canada's social and cultural life for a generation to come. Their contribution to Canada is beyond calculation, as has been that of the refugee stream that followed.

In 1956, as the DP camps of Europe were finally closed, other refugee camps suddenly opened. When Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest to crush the Hungarian uprising, they also set off a flood of refugees who escaped westward into Austria. This first refugee crisis of a deepening Cold War era came at a fortuitous moment for Canada. Its economy was still buoyant and the demand for immigrant labour strong, but official Ottawa remained cautious. Canadian security personnel warned that the Soviets might use any refugee resettlement program to slip subversives into Western democracies like Canada. The Canadian government, however, seemed less concerned about spies than about costs. Who would pay for any Hungarian resettlement program?

While the government pondered its options, national media attention remained focused on the plight of Hungarian "freedom fighters." Their defeat and scramble to find sanctuary in Austria touched the heart of Cold War Canada. The public's demand that the government do its part in resettling these Hungarian refugees increased. Private organizations pledged money to cover the costs, and the press assaulted the government for its dithering in the face of human misery. Bowing to pressure, the government finally announced it would set aside or postpone routine immigration procedures, including some medical and security checks, so as to speed Hungarian entry into Canada. The minister of immigration flew to Vienna, followed by teams of immigration officials who were intent on skimming off the cream of Hungarian refugees for Canada before other countries got them. Before the movement ended, 37,000 Hungarians joined the Canadian community; Canada admitted proportionately more Hungarian refugees than any other country.

At the time, officials believed this emergency refugee resettlement program would be a one-time exception to the regular routine of Canadian immigration. Unfortunately, persecution and state terror did not end with the Hungarian episode. In 1968, a flickering light of liberal reform in the former Czechoslovakia, known as the Prague Spring, was extinguished under the heel of yet another Soviet military action, but this was not a repeat of the Hungarian revolt. Fearing the kind of blood bath that Hungarians had endured, the Czechoslovak government and its peoples offered little armed resistance to the Soviets, who moved quickly to reassert control. But as Soviet armour closed Czechoslovakia off from the West, thousands raced for border points, hoping to cross the frontier before Soviet authorities sealed off avenues of escape. Others, stunned by the suddenness of the Soviet action, were too late. They were locked inside a Czechoslovakia where state repression was now the order of the day.

Some, like the Straznicky family, who did not leave before the frontiers were sealed off, were determined not to live out their lives in a Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia. The Straznickys carefully and secretly began plotting their escape. It was a dangerous process. They knew that any slip, any suspicion that they aroused, could turn their dream of freedom into the nightmare of arrest and prison. But the Straznicky family was luckier than most. With more resources and a wider circle of connections than many others, their plan worked. All of them - Ivan, Marta (who was pregnant), and their five children - got out. They left behind all their possessions, their extended family, and their friends, but they still considered themselves fortunate. Others failed and paid a heavy price.

The Straznickys joined approximately 12,000 other Czechoslovakian refugees admitted to Canada. Unlike the Hungarian episode a decade earlier, the Canadian government was quick to respond to the crisis of refugees from Czechoslovakia. Driven by a mixture of Cold War crusading, altruistic concern for the suffering of others, and the self-serving prospect of reaping yet another rich harvest of educated and talented people, Ottawa hurried to get its share of the Czech and Slovak refugees before they were scooped up by others.

Despite their differences, the Hungarian and Czech/Slovak refugee episodes underscored several overlapping points. The first of these is that Canada had no systematically planned or organized response to refugees around the world. In spite of Canada's high-profile role at the United Nations, a legacy of the Lester Pearson years, and even after signing the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1969, it was not until almost a decade later that Canada made a commitment in law to offer asylum to those in distress. In the meantime, Canada's response was ad hoc. Indeed, the Hungarian and Czechoslovak refugee resettlement episodes were regarded at the time as exceptions to Canadian immigration practice. And, to be honest, if the government and immigration officials had any singular vision of refugees, it was less as an immediate issue of humanitarian concem to be addressed with compassion than as a long-term economic opportunity to be tapped for Canada's benefit. Refugees, like other immigrants, were an investment. For Canada, it seemed as important to do well as to do good.

In fact, in both the Hungarian and Czechoslovak cases, Canada did do well, but there were limits on Canada's readiness to welcome even skilled and educated refugees. Like the refugee problem itself, one important limit was tied to politics. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that while the suffering endured by the persecuted may be similar, the political source of their pain made a difference in the eyes of Canadian authorities. It was widely acknowledged that when it came to resettling refugees in Canada, the government favoured those from communist or other high profile and unpopular regimes over those from equally repressive right-wing persecution. For example, there was an obvious discrepancy between Canada's response to Idi Amin's 1972 ruthless mass expulsion of Ugandan Asians who had lived in Uganda for generations and the systematic Chilean repression of all political dissent after the 1973 right-wing coup d'etat against Salvador Allende's democratically elected left-wing government.

In the case of the approximately 50,000 Asians with British passports who were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin, the British, hoping to avoid a backlash against the arrival in Britain of thousands of Asians, appealed to Canada and other countries for assistance. To its credit, Canada, which had several years earlier officially expunged racial and ethnic discrimination from its immigration law and procedures, responded in the affirmative. Immigration authorities swung into action. By the time the Ugandan resettlement program ended, Canada had admitted more than 7,000 Ugandan Asians. The group was predominantly made up of younger, well-educated professionals and entrepreneurs who, it was judged, would do well in Canada.

The Ugandan resettlement program contrasts with the Chilean experience a year later. Canadian immigration policy may have become colour-blind to race, but not to ideology. And when it came to Chileans, immigration and security personnel saw red. After the overthrow of Allende's democratically elected socialist government in an American- supported coup in September 1973, Canada, protecting major Canadian investment in Chile, was among the first to recognize Augusto Pinochet's military regime. Canadian investment may have been safe, but those who had supported the recently ousted Allende government or who might otherwise be considered unfriendly to the new regime were far less so. Arrests, "disappearances," and political repression marked a reign of terror as the new regime demonstrated its unwillingness to tolerate any political opposition or to forgive those who had supported the ousted Allende government.

But if Canadian officials hoped all this would be kept at arm's length - an unpleasant and distant Chilean problem best left to the Chileans to work out - they were wrong. It soon became a Canadian problem when a small band of desperate Chileans entered the Canadian embassy in Santiago to beg for political asylum and refused to leave.

Among them was a prominent professor of English literature at the University of Chile, who was a university official and Allende supporter. Immediately following the coup, the police began to hunt for Belisario Enriquez. He went into hiding. He had little illusion about what would happen to him if he were caught. Friends had been found murdered. Others were arrested, tortured, or never heard from again. The National Stadium in Santiago was converted into a huge prison. To avoid being picked up, Enriquez moved from safe house to safe house, while his wife and three children lay low at home. Finally, with the help of an official from the French embassy, which was already crowded with asylum seekers and surrounded by Chilean security personnel, Enriquez slipped into the Canadian embassy.Together with others whose lives were in danger, he refused to leave.

As embassy officials struggled to cope with their unwanted guests, Ottawa seemed unsure of how to proceed. Certainly Canada did not want to set a precedent by rewarding those who invaded its embassies, no matter what the threat, with admission to Canada. Canada also did not want to be perceived as unfriendly to the new Chilean military regime or its major supporter, the United States. But Canada also did not want to be seen turning away those who were truly in danger.

If the Canadian government was unsure of how to proceed, there were Canadians who knew exactly what they wanted their government to do, and they were determined that their government should respond with a generosity of heart. A vocal lobby, led by church groups, began pressuring Ottawa to accept significant numbers of Chileans who were facing torture or imprisonment for their political views. Whether to placate these lobbyists or just to clear the embassy, arrangements were made with the Chilean government to allow a single Canadian Forces plane to fly into Santiago in January 1974 and bring out the embassy refugees and their families, including Belisario Enriquez, his wife Maria Angelica Nunez, and their three children. One hundred and twenty-eight people were brought to safe haven in Canada.

But this flight did not begin a major movement to Canada. In comparison with the Ugandan Asian refugee resettlement program or the earlier Czechoslovak and Hungarian programs, commitment to action seemed lacking. In spite of continuing pressure from support groups in Canada, immigration officials were reluctant to set up shop in Santiago or to cut corners in processing the departure of those who were under constant threat of arrest and torture. And while one cannot minimize the difficulty of organizing the removal of persons from within their country of origin, one can also not escape the conclusion that Canadian authorities were uneasy about accepting any large group of potentially left-leaning immigrants or concerned about a negative American or Chilean government reaction. Once approval for a removal program was granted, immigration authorities were accused of burying applications under a mountain of paperwork. For some Chileans, just applying to leave Chile for Canada was dangerous. Still, Canadian officials were not prepared to waive security checks as they had done in the earlier Hungarian and Czechoslovak episodes.

Two years after the overthrow of Allende and in spite of a continuing international censure of the Chilean dictatorship's wholesale abuse of political and human rights, fewer than 2,000 Chileans were cleared for entry into Canada. Gradually, removals increased. In the end, almost 7,000 Chileans finally made it into Canada. Many of them were the kind of educated, white-collar professionals who, in different times, might have successfully applied to Canada as immigrants. This is not to argue that Chilean refugees were any more or less deserving of Canadian asylum than Ugandan Asians. On the contrary, the Chilean case clearly illustrates that just as Canada's response to humanitarian abuse could be tempered by economic self-interest, economic self-interest could also be tempered by political considerations.

As the numbers of individuals and groups suffering persecution increased, and as one refugee crisis overlapped another, Canadian officials came to see the need for a national refugee policy that would be in line with those of its Western allies, one that would allow Canada to prepare and respond to refugees around the world in an ongoing and orderly way. Certainly, Canada could no longer respond to crises in the ad hoc fashion that characterized previous decades. Parliament responded. In a new Immigration Act that came into effect in 1978, Canada, for the first time, recognized refugees as a distinct class of immigrants, separate from other immigrants and entitled to Canadian asylum. In administrative terms, this meant that a percentage of an annual immigration target was to be set aside each year for refugees. But, in effect, two routes opened up to refugees: an off-shore route in which Canadian authorities continue to go abroad, often to refugee camps, to select from among those who were already granted Convention refugee status; and secondly, an internal route by which individuals, who make their way to Canada on their own, claim refugee status once they arrive in Canada. The internal route demanded that Canada organize and maintain a system for determining the legitimacy of individual claims.

The new Immigration Act's off-shore refugee provisions were almost immediately put to the test during the Vietnamese boat people crisis of 1978. It was hard to steel one's heart against the media's horrific images of weary men, women, and children packed onto tiny wooden vessels in a desperate search for a safe harbour. It is still unclear why so many Canadians were so touched by the particular agony of the boat people - including Pham, The Trung - but a public clamour for Canadian action grew. Thousands of individuals across Canada linked with friends, neighbours, and church groups to forge a chain of support for Vietnamese refugees. If they were not a majority of Canadians, they represented a grass roots organization the likes of which Canada had never seen. Tapping into refugee sponsorship provisions of the new Immigration Act, small groups came together and applied to bring refugee families to Canada. At first taken aback by the magnitude of public distress at events in Southeast Asia, Ottawa soon responded with humanity and dispatch. By the end of 1980, the government united with private refugee sponsorship groups across Canada to admit more than 60,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, and ethnic Chinese from Southeast Asia. This is reportedly the highest per capita resettlement program of any country.

Since the boat people episode, refugee admissions have remained an important and often controversial part of Canada's overall immigration program. Throughout the 1980s, Canada continued to be a mainstay in refugee resettlement among Western receiving countries, so much so that Canadians remain the only people who have been collectively awarded the Nansen Medal from the United Nations for its "sustained contribution ... to the cause of refugees." In 1980, at the height of the boat people crisis, the annual estimate of refugees had to be increased to slightly more than 28 per cent of all immigrants admitted to Canada. During the subsequent 10 years, the percentage of refugees hovered between 14 and 20 per cent of all admissions to Canada.

Among those refugees who found new homes in Canada during the 1980s were many who were escaping from the political decay of eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, Southeast Asia, and the seemingly never-ending civil strife of Central America. Joining them were Tamil refugees escaping the bloody civil strife of Sri Lanka. In response to anti-Tamil riots in the streets of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, the Canadian government introduced in 1983 a special Tamil refugee resettlement program. Some were selected from among those who escaped government-sanctioned terror by making their way to the temporary safety of refugee camps in Jaffna, to the northern Tamil-dominated areas of Sri Lanka, or by sea across the Palk Strait to southern India. Others took different escape routes. Denied the protection of their government, some travelled on expensive false documents.

For the Segaran family, the riots in Colombo changed their world forever. With her husband Siva working abroad, Indira Segaran and her three children barely escaped Colombo alive. Their possessions were looted and their home was burned. They made their way northward to Jaffna and eventually to India. With the return of peace, the Segarans returned to Colombo, but soon realized that as Tamils they would not be able to rebuild a life secure from threat in Sri Lanka. Siva left Sri Lanka and found his way to Canada by a roundabout route through Europe on false papers. He claimed refugee status. His application was granted, and he soon brought his family to join him in Canada.

Siva was not alone. In 1983, the first year of Canada's Tamil resettlement program, more than 1,800 Tamils were admitted. In the years that followed, thousands more who had lost their homes, most of them women and many of them victims of rape or torture, have tried to build new lives for their families in Canada.

But would this path be open to others to travel? As the 1980s drew to a close and an economic malaise took hold, the public mood showed signs of unease on the issue of refugees. Could it be that, following the nation's unprecedented burst of humanitarian zeal during the boat people crisis, enthusiasm was spent? Perhaps uneasy at the onset of an economic slow-down, Canadians seemed too drained to concern themselves with the trials of others. Perhaps Canadians were responding uneasily to the dramatic shift that was the by-product of refugee immigration since the early 1970s and that was increasingly visible in the streets of major Canadian cities: the majority of new arrivals were not white. Whatever the reason or combination of reasons, anxiety gradually focused on those refugee claimants who were not selected abroad by immigration officials but who claimed refugee status once they arrived in Canada. Too often, they were incorrectly seen as "abusing the system," somehow violating Canadian sovereignty and the rules that determined who should enter Canada. Canada did not choose them. They chose Canada. As the line of refugee claimants within Canada grew longer, the refugee determination review system, which was never designed to handle a large volume of applicants, was hard-pressed to keep pace. Fears of system overload were compounded by exaggerated reports of fraudulent refugee claimants with no "well-founded fear of persecution" who used Canada's refugee program to "sneak into Canada through the back door." It was not long before public muttering about tightening up the refugee determination review system could be heard. While human rights and pro-refugee activists lobbied to ensure that those in danger would not be denied asylum, government officials, intent on making the refugee review procedure more efficient, began working on new legislation to control better the flow of refugee claimants into Canada.

The opportunity to push legislative revisions through Parliament came after two ships, one of Tamils in 1986 and another of Sikhs in 1987, illegally landed their respective human cargoes on Canada's East Coast in the dead of night. As the media hinted that more ships were on their way to Canada to deposit additional refugee claimants on Canadian beaches, the government declared an emergency. Despite the protests of pro-refugee advocates, Parliament was recalled and waiting legislation was rushed through to tighten up refugee regulations and impose sanctions on those who aided or abetted the entry of persons to make refugee claims. It was now more difficult for individuals to make a successful refugee claim from within Canada.

In December 1989, as this debate continued, Faduma Abdi arrived in Canada with two of her five children and pregnant with another. She applied for refugee status. Could it be that Canadians wanted to close the door against her and those like her? One can only hope not. Faduma Abdi is from Somalia. She comes from an urban background. University educated and working as a public servant in Mogadishu where she lived with her husband and children, Faduma also volunteered her time to social agencies that assisted dispossessed refugees from Ethiopia who sought refuge in Somalia. Little did she know she would soon be a refugee herself.

In 1986, civil war erupted in Somalia. Later, Faduma Abdi's husband, Yusuf Abdi, a political opponent of the ruling regime, was abducted and imprisoned. The army ransacked their home and threatened family members. Faduma fled to the countryside to find refuge for herself and her children. With the help of influential friends and family, her husband was released from detention. Scarred by his prison experience, he managed to secure an escape for his wife and the two youngest children to the United States in December 1989. When he followed by boat with the three remaining children via Kenya, their vessel capsized and he was drowned. Faduma, meanwhile, had made her way to the United States and later to Canada where she applied for status as a Convention refugee. Unknown to Faduma, who feared that her husband had perished with the three children, her two daughters and only son had in fact survived and been sent to a refugee camp in Kenya. Shortly thereafter, she learned that the children for whom she grieved were still alive. The family was reunited in Canada in 1991.

Faduma and her children join an estimated 500,000 refugees whom Canada has admitted since the end of World War II, but will this asylum be available to others who might be threatened in the future? The signals are mixed. In these difficult political and economic times, it will take a particularly strong commitment to human decency for Canadians to withstand mounting pressures to exclude those in need. And there can be no mistake that Canada's refugee protection process has been questioned.

In 1992, the government introduced revisions of the Immigration Act that were designed to make it more difficult for those who wish to make a refugee claim within Canada. Some of these revisions went well beyond what many felt was either necessary or appropriate to process the flow of asylum seekers more effectively. Pro-refugee lobbyists prodded the government into withdrawing several of the more draconian provisions of its proposed legislation, but the essential features of the package passed through Parliament in December 1992. Since then the Canadian government has made it still more difficult for refugees to reach Canada's shores.

The majority of refugees in the world today will eventually be resettled in their countries of origin, but not all of them can be or will be. Since we as Canadians all share in the lives of those who came to Canada as refugees in this generation or generations past, dare we as a nation turn our back on those who still need or will need Canada as a safe haven? It would be a sad commentary on our past and a poor legacy to leave our children if Canada were to lead an international retreat from caring. Surely all those who rejoice that in Canada R 5001 3210 could again be Pham, The Trung will not deny Canada to others.