The new leader of Canada’s Conservative Party Andrew Scheer has made
his first strategic move as head of the Opposition Party to visit the
Good Shepherd Chaldean Cathedral in Toronto in an act of appeal to
refugee communities in the country. The church he visited is largely a
home of the growing Chaldean refugee community; a minority group from
the Middle East that has faced increased persecution in recent times due
to their adherence to the Christian faith. The opposition leader met
with Bishop Emmanuel Shalita who presides over the church and discussed
matters regarding the protection of religious minorities and refugees
coming from the Middle East.
The protector of religious prosecution
Andrew Scheer is no stranger to the topic of religious persecution. He has stated
previously the importance he sees in the protection of religious
minorities facing persecution from groups such as ISIS and supports
those he sees as the fleeing minorities of the Middle East, most notably
Scheer supports the idea of prioritizing minorities like Middle
Eastern Christians who face “death for conversion away from Islam”; a
position that has brought him support in the Conservative community. The
prioritization of such refugees will most likely translate into the
sponsorship of said religious minorities and the containment of other
refugees fleeing the region.
The problem arises then, that if such religious minorities are indeed
prioritized what happens to those who still face persecution but are
not classified as a religious minority.
Greater attention does indeed need
to be given to minorities such as Christians who face persecution, but
the answer to the crisis cannot lie in the strict prioritization of one
specific group; but rather to help those most in danger, which indeed
often are Christians.
Scheer has also made the distinction
between what he sees are refugees that are in eminent need of help;
meaning “accepting people directly from their home countries, rather
than prioritizing those who have already fled”. This differentiation is
important to how Scheer distinguishes who is a refugee and those who is
just a migrant.The point being made that those who are still in their country facing
persecution should be considered refugees, and those that have escaped
the said country and are now displaced should be recognized as migrants.
Scheer is not the only one who hold such a position in the Conservative
sphere and his support greatly comes from churches and other religious
establishments. In fact, Scheer has visited
the Good Shepherd Chaldean Cathedral before and has become a friend to
the local Chaldean community in Toronto. This community made up mostly
of immigrants and their children has grown significantly since the
beginning of the Iraq war in 2003 and has seen an influx of refugees and
other immigrants seeking asylum from groups such as ISIS. The community
has become more established in the area, therefore, and is receiving
increased recognition from politicians and government spokespersons
seeking support from the minority.
The needed for acknowledgment of the Chaldeans
The visit Scheer has made ultimately has little to do with the
advancement of the Conservative party, but instead helps shine a
spotlight on a community that faced many numerous hardships. Indeed, for
Chaldeans to gain recognition of in Canada they must be seen by a
larger Canadian audience.
Scheer’s visit is the first step to this wider acknowledgment of the
Chaldean people and may serve tremendously in their advancement in the
country. Undeniably, the Chaldeans are rarely recognized in the western
world. The precedence that Scheer has set by making his first official
visit as Conservative leader to a local Chaldean church shows that the
minority community is in a state of deep progression and recognition is
vital to this.
The impact this visit makes has
less to do with any great Conservative political maneuver, and more to
do with a community that has often been forgotten. The Chaldeans have
never been a stranger to persecution, and continuing attention to such
ethnic groups can benefit greatly to the advancement of minority rights.
The reality is, it extremely difficult for Chaldeans to simply
migrate to Canada. Even once they are in the country, support can be
minimal and adjustment to life in Canada burdensome without the help of
the government and cultural communities such as the Chaldean Cathedral.
Andrew Scheer’s counterpart, the current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau once said, “Canada has always been there to help people who need it”.
Trudeau and Scheer do not agree on
many things, but the support of minority groups such as Chaldeans
cannot be an issue they disagree on.
The Chaldeans need to be supported by both parties, and more bipartisan
work is needed to acknowledge the hardships of such people. The
Chaldeans are in tremendous need of help, and let’s hope this help does
not end with Andrew Scheer’s visit to the Good Shepheard Chaldean
*Mark Chamoun is a third-year Political Science and Near and Middle
Eastern Studies major at the University of Toronto. His interests belong
mostly in the political and philosophical spheres. Chamoun works as a
president of the Chaldean Canadian Student Association which advocates
for the culture, identity, and political needs of the Chaldean people.
In addition, he is focusing on issues pertaining to minority groups in
the Middle East and the current politics and happenings in the region.