Welcome, Refugees

On Thursday, December 10th, the front page of the Toronto Star was this:

It almost brought me to tears to see how welcoming the city of Toronto could be. And it made me proud to be Canadian.

After the Paris attacks a month ago, tensions were high around the world, and most understandably. It became a moment where people needed to standby each other the most, demonstrating that fear would not take the world over.

However, here in Canada, certain incidents seemed to demonstrate the crack in community power. With the arson of the only mosque in Peterborough (a city east of Toronto) and women being attacked for simply wearing something that shows their faith – and just the rise in hate crimes – really posed a challenge to Canada’s multiculturalism. National security became the topic at hand, especially as government officials urged the Prime Minister to hold back on his party’s platform of allowing 25,000 Syrian refugees before the end of the year. And indeed, the deadline has been pushed to the end of February.

Initially, this was kind of sad to see. Out of the U.S., Donald Trump’s “outspokenness” has been offensive and unthoughtful, and the rising number of senators standing up to reject refugees’ arrival in their state only added to the stigma of refugees. This stigma seemed to be winning in the most illogical way.

But it was not until I read Canada’s calm and collective reason behind the pushback of the refugee resettlement plan: they wanted to ensure it be done right as to not compromise the settlement of the refugees. It was not because of increased fear and the stigma that seems to grow and grow. It was because of combined community programs to stand up for Muslim woman, and the myriad of people who helped donate beyond the funding goal for the mosque that made this a good decision.

The last two days have shown how hard volunteers, government, and communities have come together in order to make this process possible in the best way possible. And if they can show this much strength in only a couple days, I can only imagine how much will be accomplished in the next couple months. This resettlement is working against fear. From the love-filled family reunions, to just kids playing on safe and open spaces like a parking lot, it is the masterpiece of Canadian values. These new Canadians are receiving their SIN cards right away, they are immediately put into shelter and they are quickly given winter coats (oh, how they will be surprised later on).

Yes, some will always be reluctant to open their arms in welcome. But those who are supportive are giving enough love to make up for that. Their arms are extending longer, reaching to people in a country almost completely destroyed, halfway around the world – people who need it the most. And that’s what it’s all about, is it not? Though there will always be issues at home, Canada is finally – after so long a time – setting an example for the world stage by taking on international responsibilities and developing a program well enough for others to follow. An international policy that allows people to be included in a country’s national policy, like social spending, from job training to language courses, shows that it’s more than just helping refugees. It’s about showing that people are people, no matter the differences between them.




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