Canada should open our doors in an expedited manner to asylum seekers. For well over a year, Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has join many other organizations in calling for Ottawa accept at least 10,000 Syrians. We have also opposed discrimination against refugees from that region on the basis of their religion.
"Where is Canada?" In Turkey and Jordan recently, this was the question we heard over and over, from Syrian refugees themselves, crisis intervention workers, medical professionals, human rights activists and others dedicated to helping Syrians.To friends and family, I referred to my time in the region as a tour of shame, as a Canadian. There was a clear perception among the people we spoke with that Canada preferred Christian asylum seekers, and this explained the delays and inaction. As the now-infamous photo of Alan Kurdi reminds us, there is an immediate need for Canada to show leadership in developing a concrete solution.
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.
People don't abandon their homes out of choice, and they are not unaware of the risks they will face along their journeys. It is out of desperation that they flee war and torture, misery, poverty and persecution. Doctors Without Borders delivers humanitarian medical care and sees first-hand the suffering and horrible conditions that drive people to risk their lives for the chance of a better future.
By the time you read this column, my membership in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario will likely be revoked (if not, I will resign). I will no longer be the director of a riding association in the Toronto Centre Conservative Association. This is not because I am no longer useful to the once-proud party of Bill Davis, John Robarts and, yes, Christine Elliott, but because I am coming out against comrade Stephen Harper -- our party's federal counterpart. The Stephen Harper era has made us too partisan, extremely fearful of our neighbours, cheerleaders in world affairs, less tolerant to new immigrants and refugees and mere observers in the affairs of our country -- instead of active actors.
The heart-rending image of Alan Kurdi dead in the sand, as though sleeping peacefully, sparked a global mobilization to aid Syrian refugees. But while they number more than four million, Syrians still only represent one-fifth of the almost 20 million refugees in the world today -- the greatest global refugee population since World War II. While Canadians open their homes and wallets to Syrian refugees, here are some of the others we cannot allow to be forgotten.
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.
The timing for the image of Muslims to change from fire-breathing jihadi terrorists, frothing at the mouth to actual human beings could not have been worse. This election was supposed to be about economic renewal and getting tough on crime and instead we are in a recession and the papers are full of stories about Muslims drowning in the sea.