The New York Times published this week, October 24 an article by JODI KANTOR and CATRIN EINHORN entitled; Refugees encounter a foreign word: Welcome!
The story is about Canadians who sponsored Syrian Refugees and the response of the Canadian Government to this refugee crisis. Canada has a very well established and old refugee program. Canada was one of the founder and proponent of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee, who deals with all refugee crisis around the world. Canada was also a writer of the International Convention on Refugee who regulate how internationally refugees are dealt with. In 1986 the Canadian People won the Nansen Refugee Medal awarded by the UNHCR.
Canadians in general do not see refugees as a threat to our way of life. Thousands of Canadians have in past decades sponsored tens of thousands of refugees to come to Canada to rebuild their lives. It’s a good and positive story and as Canadians we should be proud of what we have achieved.
There have been a lot of refugee crisis in the 20th Century and now in this new century. Think 1956 Hungarian crisis, 1967 Czechoslovakia, 1976 Vietnam Boat people and so on. In each case Canadians stepped up to the plate to do the need for.
The Syrian refugee crisis should be treated the same as all others. However the world view is different now. The media has fanned the flames of hate with sensational articles and politicians using populist tactics have used the lowest common denominator to create fear. The USA has so far admitted only 10,000 Syrian refugees, a very low number if compared with the past when the USA was seen as a vacuum cleaner picking up every refugee in sight.
There has been a mischaracterization of Syrians, they have been lumped into one group and labelled dangerous. The facts are very different some of them are Christians and others are Muslims, some are Arabs, some are Armenians or Circassian. For many people confusion about the entire political, social, refugee situation in the Middle East is incomprehensible. An unfortunate word association has been created; Muslim, terrorist, Islamist, ISIS, Burka, Iran, Shia, Sunni, all those words mean nothing to most people and in the end is a source of suspicions, a sign of negativity.
Despite all this, many Canadians have stepped forward to help and sponsor Syrian refugees. Sponsoring a refugee is a process which will change your life, it is a lot more than just giving some money. A sponsor is responsible for the sponsored refugee for 12 months. This means financially responsible, you are like a new parent with a child, all their needs must be met and they must be fully supported.
The story in the New York Times gives an excellent view of what it means, it is an emotional journey but also a very rewarding one.
People who are refugees are not a threat, they represent no danger to the established order, your values or beliefs. Their need is to feel safe and rebuild their lives destroyed by war and political upheaval, situation they found themselves in through no fault of their own and are powerless to change. Only narrow minded politicians who wish to exploit unfounded fears and create hysteria for political gain wish to portray refugees as dangerous.
I have heard many say but they will impose their views on us. That is simple nonsense, Canada is a country of 36 million people of various ethnic background, faiths and culture, it is highly unlikely that 30,000 Syrian refugees mixed up in the general population would be able to change anything. Their priority is resettling. learning the language, finding jobs, learning a new way of life and sending the kids to school.
For the sponsors in Canada it has also been a steep learning curve, the Syrians they sponsored are not fitting the image they had of them before they arrived. Now they are seeing that they are human beings who are grateful for the help and anxious to get along but still have worries about their families back in camps in Lebanon or in Jordan. The Canadian sponsor have found out that Syrians have a rich ancient culture and much to share. One only wish that more Canadians who are still stuck with narrow beliefs and arrogant view points would be open to learning that there are other people in the world not as fortunate who need our help and understanding.
As for the constant terrorist threat, it has been demonstrated statistically that a Canadian has a very good chance of being run over by a car just crossing the street in any Canadian City and zero chance of ever meeting a terrorist face to face.
Let’s also not forget that the two so called terrorist incidents in Canada two years ago, were committed by White Canadians born and raised in Canada who suffered from mental illness and came from broken families. These acts where exploited by the Harper Regime at the time for cynical political purposes. It was also the Harper regime who taking their cue from the GOP strategists created the fire storm against people like the Arabs, who they viewed as a convenient easy target.
Canadians have proven that they know better and continue our tradition of welcoming refugees.