Responding to concerns after attacks

Since I was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2011, I have submitted an MP report in an effort to better communicate with citizens.

Since I was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2011, each week I have submitted an MP report in an effort to better communicate with citizens.

When the House of Commons is sitting it can often be a challenge to try and summarize a week of events in roughly 550 words.

This week, because of world events that have occurred since the terror attacks in Paris that claimed 129 lives, words alone cannot put this horrific event into context.

However we also must not shy away from discussing such a critically important topic that is of great importance to all citizens who live in a free and democratic society.

Over the past number of days I have heard an unprecedented amount of concern regarding the new Liberal government`s plans to accelerate the process to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada before the end of the year.

In large part the concern is overwhelming related to security.

Citizens are rightfully concerned that those who would seek to do us harm might attempt to compromise the generosity of our refugee system in order to gain entry to Canada.

These concerns are compounded by unconfirmed reports that possibly one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks could have gained entry posing as refugees. In addition a growing number of security experts have cautioned that such a large number of refugees cannot be effectively or properly screened in such a small window of time.

As a result of these concerns many elected officials, most notably Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, have asked the Trudeau Liberal government to slow down the process and ensure that it is done properly.

The concerns put forward by Premier Wall are very similar to what I am hearing from an overwhelming majority of citizens here in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and are concerns that as the Official Opposition we will be taking to the Liberal Government in Ottawa.

To date the Liberal Government has indicated the accelerated timeline that was set by the Liberals during the election will be maintained. Unfortunately the Liberal Government has not released a formal plan nor effectively communicated how this accelerated refugee process can be accomplished in a manner that does not compromise public safety, more so as the new Public Safety Minister has been quoted as admitting that no vetting process is foolproof.

To what extent the accelerated screening process is foolproof remains undetermined at this point thus further creating legitimate concerns for citizens.

While the need for screening and security is clearly understandable, we must not overlook that the vast majority of refugees are only looking for a safe and welcoming country where they will not be in harm`s way.

Many of these families undertook significant risks and left everything behind in the hopes that a better future could be possible for them and their families. Here in Canada, we are that future. We can choose to get involved, to be welcoming and to support those individuals, groups and organizations that often act as sponsors to help refugees settle in our towns and cities.

While the need for security and adequate screening remains a critical concern it must not be overlooked that successful immigration and integration depends upon a welcoming and inclusive society that respects and supports our diversity. All of this has come to be part of what it means to be a Canadian.

I will continue to provide updates on this matter as they become available and encourage all citizens to share your comments and concerns with me at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca  or 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the MP for Okanagan Coquihalla.