I never quite understood the idea of closing the door once you are on the inside.
With the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposing to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees fleeing war and destruction in their homeland, there is growing objection to this idea by some 60% of Canadians.
Having worked in aboriginal communities for close to ten years I came to understand how Canada’s original people opened their arms to the waves of white colonizers. In the decades following Canada has taken in many others fleeing war and persecution from across the globe as well as those of us simply seeking a better life.
And in spite of Stephen Harper, in the last election campaign, trying to distinguish “old stock Canadians” from newer arrivals, we are all immigrants to this land.
In the past week it has been heartbreaking to hear the disgusting comments from folks who do not want the Syrian refugees to come here. On one radio program the host went so far as to threaten to call the police with regards to some of what the callers were saying.
Another young man, whom a relative described as “un peu raciste” was arrested by the police for posing on the internet with a gun and a mask and threatening to kill one Arab per week.
The worst that I heard was that from a young Vietnamese professional, who came to Canada with her parents as “boat people,” expressing skepticism about Canada taking in the Syrian refugees. I could not help but wonder whether she would have had the opportunity to become the professional that she is if Canada did not give her family a chance to live free from war and turmoil. And I suspect that there may also be quite a few Black folks with similar thoughts.
I believe that the tide turned when it was revealed that one of the Paris attackers may have posed as a refugee to enter Europe. But most of the others were already living in Paris. Similarly, the gunman who attacked the Canadian parliament and killed a soldier was a Canadian, as was the individual who killed the soldier with his car in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu. These attackers did not come from somewhere else.
The truth is that no one wants to experience the terror and death that folks faced in Paris. Hence, proper screening by Canadian authorities may be necessary in addition to the refugees having already been screened and vetted by the United Nations.
I am also of the opinion that these folks are not just waking up one morning from their comfortable homes and deciding to bundle their children and walk for hours and days in inclement weather and travelling in rickety and unsafe boats and be subject to inhumane treatment by some authorities just for the fun of it.
These folks are fleeing real bombs and death and the destruction of their homes and villages. It is quite possible that they would much prefer to stay in their homes in safety and in a place and culture that is familiar to them. But it is a question of survival.
Having travelled quite a bit in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America and to almost all of the Caribbean islands, I have come to the conclusion that (as human beings regardless of skin colour) we are more alike than we are different.
All of the folks that I have come across in the places that I have visited want the same things, i.e. a sense of safety and to put a roof over their family’s head, to put food on the table, and to educate their children and give them the best chance to live a productive life. It is also the reason why those of us from the Caribbean left our twelve-months-a-year sunny and warm islands to come to this cold (ass) place.
Please let us not join the chorus of those wanting to reject the Syrian refugees. Canada is a large country that needs immigrants to pay for the upkeep and care of its ageing population. And perhaps they should even look beyond the Syrians and also provide a safe haven for some Africans living in similar turmoil and other people of colour as well.