Thousands of people fleeing communism were welcomed here in the 1950’s and 60’s. Later, more than 60,000 people from southeast Asia arrived in Canada in the 1970’s.
Throughout our history, and at a time when the world seemed like a much bigger place, we showed ourselves capable of taking in people seeking safe passage out of wars and oppressive regimes.
Now, with our immigration minister calling the dire situation for Syrian refugees “the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time,” we have not acted in the same way we would have in the past. Instead of taking swift action, our government has lagged behind many other nations, seemingly content to turn the matter of taking in refugees into an election issue, instead of acting in a meaningful way right now, when they have the chance.
Instead of making the process easier for those wishing to come to Canada, the Stephen Harper-led government has only added roadblocks, including taking away health care benefits for refugees last year. And when Ontario stepped up to fill the humanitarian void, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander called the move “wrong” and a “waste of money”.
The world finally seemed to take notice of the crisis in Syria last week when the heart-breaking photos of drowned three-year-old Alan Kurdi, after his body washed ashore on a Greek island, after his family made the decision that it was safer in the choppy water than on land, where the young boy had only known war and oppression.
There is still a chance for those in power to do the right thing and allow more to come here and enjoy the same freedoms we have known for generations. It’s the Canadian way.