From a supporter . . .
It’s 1986. I’m watching host Knowlton Nash on CBC’s The National describing the “Sri Lankan Refugee Crisis”: a flow of desperate people landing on our shores in shady crafts. Mysterious people carrying only whatever they have left with them. I remember being…Unsympathetic. (Granted, I was an ignorant teenager but it was still the internal choice that I made at that time and I’ve already called myself on it.)
Too many years later, a friend from Sri Lanka told me about her experiences as a child during their country’s long civil war: at times, hiding from soldiers within a relative’s house, akin to Anne Frank, witnessing the unspeakable. It tempered my former ignorance with what should have been there in the first place: Compassion. And, it powered the Courage it requires to change enough so as to not change back later.
Fast forward to the present day and up a couple levels on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
It’s 2015. I’m watching host Peter Mansbridge (I miss Knowlton) on CBC’s The National describing the “Syrian Refugee Crisis”: a jaw-dropping river of desperate people landing on unfamiliar shores in shady crafts and walking onwards towards Anywhere Safe. Mysterious people carrying only whatever they have left with them. How will I want to remember myself, this time? I already know How. And, Why.
The Beacon of Hope
It is sometimes difficult for us to understand, even imagine, what a beacon Canada is to others around the world. A beacon of hope and good. A light that promises safety, and a better life for people, their children, and their grandchildren. In Canada we often assume that everyone in the world has these things. They do not.
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria has reminded us once again the world is not a safe place. People fear for their very existence and have run to escape the threats to their lives and the lives of their families. The numbers are staggering.
As humans we have a responsibility to others to help. Canada and Canadians, as a beacon of hope, peace, and safety can play a significant role. We have been a haven for those needing shelter and peace since before there was a Canada. It is who we are.
Yet there are those who are hesitant. They mean well, but their call of caution appeals to our baser nature. Our fear of outsiders. Our justification, to protect what is ours. These insular calls serve only to dim the bright beacon, the beacon of hope we shine. There have been times in our history when these fears have won out, casting a shadow over our record for welcoming, a stain on our past.
Let that not happen now! We are a safe, caring, and prosperous land. We are strong when facing any adversity. We each owe a debt to our forebears, whether distant or recent, who came, built and contributed to this prosperity we enjoy every single day of our lives. We have an obligation to them, to keep the beacon of hope brightly shining.
In today’s complicated and fragmented world, It’s often difficult to know what is “good” and what is not. Surely providing a home for those in fear for their lives and the wretchedly oppressed is an easy marker. Doing any less is unthinkable. Fear and inertia should not be the standard we expose to the world.
Every parent wishes safety and a better life for their children and their children’s children. Every immigrant to Canada has wanted nothing more. That is what we offer to so many. We must not deny them. For every family we welcome, we build a more vibrant Canada, a stronger future for us all. May the beacon of hope continue!