In response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, our current Canadian government has reluctantly offered some support. We shall, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accept 10,000 refugees over the next three years. As medical students committed to global health, we call into question this lukewarm commitment to such a pressing crisis and call for stronger commitments in line with Canada's values.
The photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach awakened many voters to the human cost of our hardened, fear-based approach to immigration and foreign policy. But equally important and more difficult to acknowledge is the way the refugee crisis has cast an uncomfortable light on the question of who "we" are, and how our laws make us. To understand the anemic Canadian response to the refugee crisis, we must place it in the context of a broader policy overhaul that has radically reshaped the meaning of citizenship in Canada.
Despite the fact that Canadians are in the deep and lazy days of summer, there has been more interest in the federal election campaign that many believed unlikely. It's not due to the parties, their leaders, or their policies. With most of the election still ahead of us, those aspects will likely become more prominent. No, it's likely that healthy attention to this election season is due to a kind of restless desire amongst Canadians for change. This could well be the real story of Canada's 42nd federal campaign. It's not really about who is chosen but the choosers themselves.
I'm not sure which Canada to celebrate this year. In the past I celebrated John Diefenbaker's Canada, the one that introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights, Pierre Elliot Trudeau's Canada, that birthed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Mulroney's Canada that fought to end Apartheid. But in Stephen Harper's Canada, what is there to celebrate? In Harper's Canada, citizenship, now considered a privilege, has two tiers.
Actions matter more than words, but in his speech to Americans, Obama's words overshadowed his actions. He spoke to hearts and minds, outlining an aspirational set of shared values on immigration. His subtext was 'we're not there yet,' but speaking ten steps ahead of hearts and minds is how to get there.
I heard a story this week about a civics lesson. It did not take place in a high school. It was a lesson both learned and taught by some elderly newcomers who were participants in a civic awareness project. Along with learning to speak English and finding out about the systems and the laws of Canada, these folks are being challenged to engage with their new communities.
In case those of you who are Canadian-born and not just naturalized citizens are wiping your brow in relief and resting on your laurels, think again. Canadian-born and raised Deepan Budlakoti is facing deportation under the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act because of drug and gun offenses. It is not clear to where Mr. Budlakoti will be deported to since he was born here and has no ties to any other country.
Poet, Anatole France, once observed that, "it is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel." He could just as easily be commenting on two recent actions of our present federal government that fly directly in the face of what is supposed to be good politics: giving the people what they want. How else to explain the undue harshness against this country's veterans, or the outright attack and manipulation in the Harper government's attempts to revamp Elections Canada to its own purposes? What makes both of these instances so remarkable is the sheer arrogance of a government acting against the best interests of its own people.
Bob Cratchit comes out as the true hero of Dicken's novel A Christmas Carol -- a worker, a family man, a believer in the goodness of people. London, Ontario just witnessed a similar example yesterday, as Kellogg's employees, despite the devastating news of the impending shutdown, raised $10,000 and purchased quality foodstuffs for the local food bank. If we are ever to find a reason for believing in Christmas, this is it.
I don't like when tax dollars are wasted -- whether at the provincial level by relocating gas plants, or at City Hall by tearing up LRT contracts willy-nilly, or even by the federal government straight up losing $3.1 billion (whatever happened to that scandal, by the way?). And I get that times are tough. Saving pennies matters to a lot of people these days, and it should to our governments, too.