By now we have all seen the terrible image
of the drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee on the shores near a Turkish resort. The juxtaposition couldn't be any more telling of desperation confronting world indifference.
What perhaps isn't as widely known is the fact that the boy, Aylan, and his bother and mother, Galip and Rehan Kurdin who also drowned, were rejected
for emigration to Canada:
Canadian legislator Fin Donnelly told The Canadian Press that he had submitted a request on behalf on the boys’ aunt, Teema Kurdi, who had wanted to bring the family to Canada, but her request was turned down by Canadian immigration officials. Teema Kurdi, based in the Vancouver area, is the sister of the drowned boys’ father Abdullah, who survived.Fin Donnelly, who is running for re-election in Port Moody-Coquitlam said he delivered a letter on behalf of Teema Kurdi, Abdullah’s sister, to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in March but that the sponsorship request was not approved.Exactly what is our responsibility in an humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions?
In today's Star
, Tony Burman ponders that very question, and asks why so little is being said about it during our current election campaign:
In recent weeks, the approach by Canada’s political class, led by its major political parties, seems to be based on a 21st-century notion about this country — that this worldwide refugee crisis really doesn’t involve Canada directly, and really doesn’t matter to Canadians.
With the crisis worsening by the day, it is time for this to end. We need to increase pressure on our politicians in this election campaign to push this issue aggressively to the fore.Burman reminds us that historically, indifference has not been the Canadian way:
In recent decades, Canada’s doors were wide open to thousands of refugees. Since the 1970s, 6,000 Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin’s regime, 13,000 Chilean refugees escaping the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, 20,000 Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union, as well as 18,000 Iraqis, 3,300 Haitians and many, many others were all welcomed to Canada.
There was also, of course, the dramatic response by Canadians in 1979-80 to the flood of refugees trying to escape communist Vietnam.
The government’s initial commitment was to settle 500 Vietnamese, but through the actions of private sponsors, community and civic groups, that number eventually grew to more than 60,000.Contrast that with our current regime:
In spite of promises to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years, the Canadian government has been criticized by refugee groups as being laggard in what it actually delivers. In the past three years, only 1,300 Syrian refugees have been admitted. According to the UN, Canada has dropped from the fifth-highest refugee recipient in 2000 to the ranking of 15th last year.Defending and spinning the indefensible has become the only remaining skill-set of the once promising Chris Alexander, our Citizenship and Immigration minister, who, during his appearance on Power and Politics yesterday, was effectively eviscerated by host Rosie Barton, especially near the end of the panel:
If you don't have time to watch the video, BuzzFeed
has a summary of the dustup.
It is easy, and perhaps only human nature, to regard this crisis as something occurring 'over there.' Many of us may find it difficult to get emotionally involved in the plight of people we do not know or do not identify with. But that's ultimately beside the point. Whether we acknowledge in our hearts or only in our minds, there is but one conclusion to be drawn: each country, including ours, has a moral and ethical responsibility to help these unfortunate people who, by virtue of the birth lottery, were not born into the advantages that we enjoy but have in no way earned.