Mark MacKinnon reports on the process through which Canada is sourcing and clearing Syrian refugees for permanent residency in Canada.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Question to Explore:

  • How are Syrian refugees being screened before they are granted permanent residency in Canada?

New Terminology:

IOM, UNHCR, SOFEX, biometric screening, Interpol

Materials Needed:

Globe article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Syrian refugees have begun to arrive in Canada, yet many Canadians remain wary of the process, concerned about terrorists slipping in among them. Their concerns are understandable given the heightened state of fear that the recent Paris tragedy has generated throughout the western world. Yet the process through which Canada is accepting these people is tested and more thorough than most might realize.

As Canadians prepare to welcome thousands of Syrian refugees, students can benefit from a lesson that reviews the conditions under which refugees are being admitted and the care that is taken to ensure the safety of Canadians.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Students will work in groups to learn about the immigration process in place to screen refugees before they are granted permanent residency in Canada. They will present a short oral report to class when they’re finished.

Engage students in a short discussion about the incoming Syrian refugees. Using a map, remind them of where Syria is located and fill them in on the state of that country—engaged in a civil war for the past four years; air strikes by US, Canadian, Russian and other countries against ISIS within its boundaries; millions of refugees in camps in neighbouring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

To engage them, ask: What do Paul Anka, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Jobs, Paula Abdul, Teri Hatcher, F. Murray Abraham, René Angélil (spouse of Celine Dion), Tony Clement (former cabinet minister in the Harper Government) have in common? (They are all of Syrian descent).

Note that, although some of these are not mentioned in the article, there are additional security measures in place when refugees arrive in Canada, including medical checks, registering with law enforcement agencies, and so on. These can be found at the government website:

Organize your class into groups and provide them with the above link and a copy of the article by Mark MacKinnon and this assignment:


  • Have a volunteer in your group read the article aloud to the group.
  • Using the article and the link provided by your teacher, list all the different security and safety measures being taken by various organizations and officials before refugees are chosen to come to Canada.
  • List as well the additional checks and screenings once refugees arrive.
  • Discuss these with your group and see if you can come to consensus (where most, but not necessarily all will agree) on whether or not you believe these refugees represent a danger to Canadians. Provide reasons for the position you take.
  • Does your group agree that Canada’s refugee plan is something other countries could consider a model for resettlement? Give reasons.
  • Be prepared to provide a short oral report to class.

As groups present, list all the security measure on the board. When you’ve finished, ask students whether they feel this process is sufficient to protect Canadians from any terrorists who might try to merge with the refugees.

Consolidation of Learning: 

  • Preparing consensus statement; class discussion following oral presentations.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can list most of the steps of the security and health screening process for Syrian refugees.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students bring news items to class that focus on the arriving refugees.