Canada offered asylum to a mere 11,000 of the millions of displaced Syrians. Even then, an Ekos poll in March found that 46 per cent of Canadians still feel Canada is accepting too many immigrants and refugees. A poll last year found 42 per cent believe refugees should not be given the same level of health care as Canadian citizens. We don't understand this hardening attitude. Refugees like Nisreen's family aren't criminals or freeloaders. We are just like them. But for the grace of God we could be them.
Yet, it's the luxury liner that brought them here, the beautiful Aquitania, that uniquely captures my attention. Like my family, the ship was tired, battle-weary, but she pushed ahead nonetheless, navigating her way through rough seas, a turbulent winter and plenty of unknowns to reach the final destination. As a proud Canadian and daughter, I'm terribly glad she did.
Over the following months in 2001, the violence continued in Burundi between the rebels and the government. My passion for my work diminished. I no longer felt like doing anything. I even stopped watching the news on TV, or even listening to it on my own radio station. Everything looked hopeless. In 2002, some Canadian journalists visited Burundi. If I were going to ask for help, it was now or never. Six months later, they invited me to visit Canada, and I jumped on the opportunity. I arrived in Canada with $60 in my pocket -- my mother's life savings.
This Saturday, June 20, is the UN World Refugee Day. It's a day set aside every year to recognize the plight of refugees and acknowledge the efforts of those who assist them, often in the face of life-threatening obstacles. We need to recognize realities but not despair. We need to focus the global mind on our collective responsibility. We need to roll up our sleeves and help those who are so deserving of our assistance while urging others to double and triple their efforts to end the underlying conditions that have created this unacceptable human catastrophe.
On World Refugee Day 2015 (June 20), events around the world recognize the more than 50 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. It is a day to reflect on the strength and resilience of the millions who have fled their countries and we acknowledge the efforts of individuals and groups who are devoted to supporting refugee populations.
I was recently directed to an article that discussed the phenomenon of visible minorities working in Toronto restaurant kitchens. Interestingly, the Sri Lankan Tamil community was cited as staffing almost a third of these kitchens. However, few visible minorities, including Tamils, have found success in the "front of the house" as restaurateurs or culinary chefs.
The number of deaths have been mounting over the years. The International Organization of Migration estimates that somewhere in the range of 20,000 women, men and children have drowned in the Mediterranean between 2000 and 2014, while trying to reach safety and new lives in Europe. Canada can and should be central to international efforts to address the underlying crises in Syria, Eritrea and other countries, propelling the displacement that leads to the Mediterranean. This is not a crisis that Canada should simply observe and lament.
The Syrian conflict has passed two sobering milestones. The civil war -- now entering its fourth year -- has now claimed more than 200,000 lives and forced more than three million people to flee the country. The Canadian government can and should be playing a more direct role in addressing the refugee crisis in Lebanon by immediately increasing our humanitarian assistance.
Logic would dictate that big-earning millionaires continue to earn big after settling in Canada. They might take a pause from their business activities while they settle in to their new country, but it's only a matter of time before the money, and the trickle-down benefits, start flowing, right? Not so.
Militias set fire to homes with families still inside. From her safe refuge here in Canada, Dahlia heard the horrific reports and knew she had to get her family out of Syria. But to sponsor them as refugees in Canada would take an agonizing 18 months of bureaucracy and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Dahlia's ordeal raises the question, Are the demands of sponsorship too great for Canadians to bear?
Despite government statements that Canada has done "more than any of our allies," our allies have introduced smart humanitarian policies that have moved far more Syrians abroad than anything Ottawa has yet introduced. Canada can look to them - Germany, Sweden, Norway, Brazil and more - for inspiration.
The report calls for a national plan to address violence against immigrant and refugee women and immigration policies that better support immigrants in precarious circumstances. It calls on the federal government to abolish the two-year conditional status for sponsored spouses, reinstate access to the Interim Federal Health program to all refugee claimants and uphold the privacy of all people who have access to social and health services.
On Tuesday, October 7 the Harper government voted for military action against ISIS/ISIL notwithstanding all opposition parties opposed it. We are concerned that Canada may become further targeted by extremists and that Canadians, including members of our armed forces and our police, may be placed in greater danger as a result of its participation in the war.
Outside the neighbourhood, there is one country leading the response. It is not Canada, despite statements from our ministers that the Canadian refugee response constitutes "more than any of our allies have done." This is deliberately misleading and a slight to what our allies are actually doing. Greater leadership can be found in a country with a quarter of Canada's population.
There are more than 50 million refugees around the world. Surveys suggest that most Canadians believe we, and our government, are doing our best to help them. But a recent study of people working to resettle refugees suggests that these Canadians would be deceived. Partnership between the federal government and refugee sponsoring organizations is essential to this program's success. Commitment to this partnership, however, must be based on respect for the volunteers that put their own time and money on offer to better assist refugee resettlement.
Clemantine Wamariya went years without taking a shower. Living with the filth and stench was still preferable to risking rape in a refugee camp bathroom. It would be six more years before she again had a home not constructed out of blue and white United Nations tarps, and several more years before she became a Yale University grad and activist for displaced peoples. Wamariya's incredible success story is a testament to what refugees can achieve when every day is not just a fight for survival.
I was sitting on a bench inside the military court that day, accompanied by a military intelligence agent, waiting for my military judge to arrive in the courtroom. It was a spring day, in April 2011, just few months after the revolution started. It was the fifth time I was detained in Egypt because of my activism. It isn't that I can understand the situations of people facing injustice from afar, I can feel their pain, because it's my pain as well.
On April 25 of this year, the Ethiopian government made news by arresting six bloggers and three freelance journalists. It is now over 100 days, and counting, since the six Zone 9 bloggers and the three freelance journalists were thrown into Ethiopian prison cells. The nine writers are facing terrorism-related charges, standing accused of inciting violence through social media.