Welcoming Refugees: Canada’s compassionate tradition
DAVID KOROMA, NEWS COLUMNIST
Over the holidays, Canada welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees. Prime Minister Trudeau personally greeted the first wave of privately sponsored refugees, which led to international praise of Canada’s compassionate policy.
Pope Francis has called the war these refugees are fleeing, “piecemeal Third World War,” and just like the two before it, many politicians have stigmatized the victims — the Syrian families who have lost their livelihood.
During the First World War, Belgian refugees fleeing German bombs were viewed as invaders by much of the United Kingdom. During the Second World War, Jewish refugees also faced backlash with one Canadian immigration worker famously saying, “none is too many,” when asked how many our country would accept. Canada has come a long way since those days. We’ve welcomed Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Rwandan, Kosovar and Sudanese refugees along with many others. So it is only right that we respond strongly to this massive crisis. Prime Minister Trudeau set a lofty goal of 25,000 Syrians by year’s end. That proved impossible, and Canada failed to meet the smaller, revised goal of 10,000. Regardless, there seems to be a compassionate consensus across our country.
We don’t want to be on the wrong side of this historic humanitarian crisis.
Sadly, many people have not learned this lesson of history.
When President Barack Obama said the United States would welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, some American governors responded by saying none would be welcome in their states.
We have some political leaders, like Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, who question the rush to humanitarian aide — saying that security concerns need to be a priority. Yet, the majority of these refugees are women, children and families who were living comfortable lives before their homes were destroyed, and security screenings are still being done. While many non-profit organizations around the world are doing what they can to welcome Syrian refugees in many Western countries, it appears that no country shares the nearly unanimous sense of compassion Canada is currently showing.
This makes sense when you think most Canadians probably have ancestors who came to this country fleeing persecution or oppression. And unlike our southern neighbours, we celebrate this aspect of our cultural fabric. Canada is proudly compassionate. In a world full of xenophobia and stig-mas surrounding Muslims, our country is showing ISIS that we are not at war with Islam. And by offering refuge to the masses of peaceful Muslims who continue to bear the brunt of their atrocities, we are actually striking at the very heart of their hateful ideology.
David Koroma has experience working in government and political communications.
He is interested in the role citizens play in creating positive change on Canadian stage.
Follow David on Twitter @D_A_Koroma.