In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, discussion continues in Canada regarding the federal government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end. While national security played a large part in the election debates on refugees, it had taken a backseat to concerns of logistics in recent weeks. The Paris attacks have once again thrust security concerns into the spotlight as critics question the government’s need to meet its December 31 deadline.
Victoria Esses is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations at Western University. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Pathways to Prosperity Partnership, a national alliance of university, community, and government partners dedicated to fostering welcoming communities that promote the integration of immigrants in Canada.
Esses can provide expert commentary on how the language used by Canadians, politicians and the media to describe refugees can not only affect the level of support to accept refugees, but can be the difference between welcoming them with open hearts or treating them as less than human.
“Our research provides strong evidence that labeling refugee claimants as potential ‘terrorists’ and ‘bogus’ leads to their dehumanization – increasing the extent to which people automatically associate them with animals rather than humans. Such dehumanization allows Canadians to turn away from the suffering of refugees and choose inaction over action, or even worse.”
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