What, exactly, is Chris Alexander up to? Here’s what an emergency refugee contingency plan would look like

Ever since Immigration Minister Chris Alexander suspended campaigning to confront the refugee crisis, I’ve wondered what he was up to.


Is he making a plan for emergency admission of refugees? Because work on such a plan began in 2002 and as this report makes clear, it’s not a small task. Has anything been done since?

According to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency , a refugee emergency is “any situation in which the life or well-being of refugees will be threatened unless immediate and appropriate action is taken, and which demands an extraordinary response and exceptional measures.” That sounds about right for today’s situation.

This plan was developed in draft form in 2002 after Canada admitted 20,000 refugees from the Balkans on an emergency basis. It details the complex and urgent tasks that must be undertaken to provide relief to refugees and manage their safe arrival. Two of the assumptions: “time is of the essence” and expect “limitations on the amount of screening” that can be done overseas.

Chris Friesen, chair of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Service Alliance, says activation of such a plan is the first of five concrete steps the government could take today.

Is this what Minister Alexander is working on? If so, it’s will be big jump for a man whose government has denied medical care to asylum seekers. Let’s hope he tries.