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Syrian migrant program: Gerry Van Kessel frustrated by the game the Liberal government is playing

Liberal immigration targets frustrate former government official

Canadian Minister of Immigration John McCallum, center, walks during his visit to a Syrian refugee camp in the southern town of Ghaziyeh, near the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015.

Canadian Minister of Immigration John McCallum, center, walks during his visit to a Syrian refugee camp in the southern town of Ghaziyeh, near the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015.

AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

OTTAWA – As he watches his former colleagues go all out to resettle thousands of Syrian refugees by the end of this year, the civil servant who helped run Canada’s last major refugee resettlement program says he’s concerned that politics is getting in the way of policy.

Gerry Van Kessel says he’s frustrated by the game he feels the Liberal government is playing by constantly affixing and changing targets for their Syrian refugee program.

“There is an element of make believe in all this that keeps the focus on the make believe and not the substance,” he said in an interview.

“And to what purpose? That’s the thing — they are doing something that the public approves of. And yet the public focus is not going to be on what they are doing but on the manipulation around it.”

Van Kessel was the director general, refugees, for the immigration department when the Canadian government evacuated 5,000 Kosovars and fast-tracked the resettlement of more than 2,000 others over a period of several months in 1999.

Van Kessel said as soon as he, and other former immigration officials, saw the government’s Syrian plan, they knew bringing over more than three times that number of people in just four months couldn’t be done.

READ MORE: Family of drowned Syrian boy lands in Canada

What’s happened since has been nothing but politics, he said.

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