Editorial: Refugee crisis hits home

We are all connected to this crisis and we all need to help

It strikes me as a bit twisted that it takes the sight of a little boy’s lifeless body lapping against the shore before we realize there’s a humanitarian crisis that needs addressing.

Indeed, it was a heart-wrenching image, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to also know that 71 people suffocating to death in the back of a truck is also an ugly picture and worthy of our attention — not to mention the dingy after dingy of desperate people floating on the open ocean, trying to make their way to Europe

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Then again, perhaps it’s the “tipping point” phenomenon. All we’ve seen and heard about people fleeing Syria, finally comes to a head with the image of a dead child on a Turkish beach, and we decide to act.

To that end, hats off to a number of local faith-based groups, who are busy, not just raising money, but actually immersing themselves in the Byzantine paperwork required to sponsor a number of families to immigrate.

Granted, it’s a drop in the ocean, but to those families it could mean the world. More importantly, it’s a message to those who have the power (that would be the federal government) to open Canadian doors a little wider.  

On the campaign trail, Richmond MP Alice Wong reiterates her Conservative leader’s stance that Canada will accept more Syrian migrants, while maintaining the priority of protecting Canada’s security and ensuring potential refugees are screened. 

It’s true, an ISIS terrorist could slip in among the asylum seekers. But we should remember that all of the significant terrorist acts done in the name of Islam in Canada in recent years, have been perpetrated by Canadian-born citizens. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that refugees are more likely to commit criminal acts than anyone else. But fear is a powerful force that can overwhelm logic, especially during an election.

Then there’s the cost. Who will pay for processing and supporting these refugees as they get established? Granted, it’s expensive, but the expense pales in comparison to what refugees in general have contributed to Canadian society.

Moreover, we should remember this is one, interconnected world. What happens there, impacts here; political strife in Syria has much to do with the political and economic structures we are all a part of, and for which we are all responsible. 

Fear doesn’t  tend to bring out our finer selves when it comes to “foreigners” — think head tax, internment, “Voyage of the damned” (when Canada turned away a boat load of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany).  

But if we really want something to fear, think sticking our heads in the sand. If we see this as “their” issue, not ours, it will come back to bite us — hard. It’s already doing so.

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