With the Canadian government’s official response to the refugee crisis being anything but adequate, it bears reminding that Canada is a country made up of immigrants. And because of that fact, it matters how we treat refugees, whether they come to Canada as victims of war or in search of a better life.
Despite scenes of utmost desperation playing out in the Middle East, Canada’s Conservative government has remained seemingly untouched by the migrant onslaught, with the government keen to maintain its emotionally distant position. The official line is that the refugee crisis is no reason to change immigration policy, but rather is a reason to intensify the war against ISIS.
Government leaders tell us that governing is about making tough choices, whether the issue is pensions, healthcare, the environment, or refugees. Anything else would be seen as weakness.
However, the current mindset of Canada’s ruling conservatives is arguably a sign of how removed they are from real life, as it is not the Canadian way to speak so callously about the suffering of others. Refugees and migrants are an ever-present reality in Canadian cities, towns and villages. And though the resettlement process is never easy, the benefits are potentially huge, as has been proven time and time again.
Whether it was Hungarians escaping Communism in the 1950s, the Ismaili Muslims fleeing Uganda in the ’70s, or the Boat People that came later, each group of fleeing refugees given asylum in Canada have enriched the country.
Supporters of the government point out that Canada’s response to the refugee crisis isn’t as bad as that of some countries as we’re not building barbed-wire fences or refugee camps yet. But the Conservatives’ insistence that we suspend our humanity and carry on is not the Canadian way. As a nation of immigrants, to save the world is to save ourselves.