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 Christians.
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 Cathedral.