I couldn't help but ache for the families that do not have a warm home to come home to. The families who have had to leave their entire lives behind to be shelled to oblivion while they risk their own lives to give their children a future. These people are human beings struggling to simply stay alive and are risking everything they have ever known in order to do so.
I learned the news from internet sites -- the Bataclan was not very far from me. I know that spot. I discovered that one of the shootings was on Charonne Street. I looked up the address: 92 rue de Charonne, la Belle Équipe restaurant. My address: 125 rue de Charonne. Brent ordered me not to go outside.
Differences are what enrich our lives and make Toronto the fabulous, unique, successful city it is. Xenophobia (a fear or hatred of strangers and foreigners) has no place in a city built upon these differences. It threatens the very core of who we as Torontonians are. It is also what motivated the horrific and unacceptable attack in which a woman was beaten and robbed by two young men. They tore off her hijab and told her to "Go back to your country."
The cruelty of ISIL is matched only by its shrewd assessment of the West. The masterminds of the Paris attacks were keenly aware of the seething anti-Muslim bigotry that bubbles just below the surface of our society. ISIL's attack on Paris was intended to invoke psychological and emotional pain, intended to threaten the very ideals we presume to be fighting for. It was intended to confirm for these refugees that they cannot escape the long-reaching arm of ISIL; that even if their children have escaped the blades of ISIL's swords, they will not escape the West's leveraged hatred in what is becoming a two-front war against these victims.
As is usually the case in the rush to war, this chorus of angry voices ignores the messy and uncomfortable reality of the situation. They propose a course of action that would put Canada in greater danger, strengthen its geopolitical foes, involve a far greater sacrifice than Canadians are willing to make, and fail to improve the situation in Syria or Iraq.
I've been told that we care too much for the people of Paris. That our outpouring of sympathy ignores the fate of other countries, that we are too selective in our grief. We find it so easy to stand with our old ally, while places like Beirut and Nigeria burn. We are hypocrites for caring so much about France. But it's false.
The coordinated killings that rocked Paris over the weekend are an unspeakable horror. But we must not allow the horrific nature of this atrocity to drag Canada back into the racism, Islamophobia and war-mongering that characterized our last government. The burden to hold firm on the change that we demanded in the October election is jointly shared between Canadians and our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Unfortunately, there is a stubborn quality to the Prime Minister's current commitment to meet his election promise of admitting 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by Christmas. There is an easy solution to this current impasse between the facts on the ground today and an election promise made months ago. Set a reasonable timeline and follow the responsible policies of the American government.
Those who were indifferent before the Paris attacks are now outspoken critics of Prime Minister Trudeau's commitment to accept 25,000 refugees and bring our CF-18's home. Some of the comments I have seen are downright vitriolic. It has been suggested to me by a number of people that we re-consider reminding people at this time that we're sponsoring a refugee family. It might be bad for business and could alienate more than a few friends. I find it incredibly sad that the current state of affairs is such that I have even faint concerns about a backlash for my desire to help those in need. I certainly won't let it deter me.
It has been said that being chosen to come to Canada as one of the 25,000 Syrian refugees the Liberals have pledged to take in by the year's end is akin to winning the lottery. We are incredibly blessed to live in this extraordinary country, to put our children to bed with full bellies, to send them to school, to take them to a doctor when they are ill and to feel safe in our homes and our streets. And now we are also fortunate to be able to share some of those blessings with those in dire need.
The act of madness is followed by a wave of madness, where states are bombed to rubble and the cycle of irrational thinking becomes the rule that governs the game. I wish, as we utilize our resources to discuss issues facing our societies, we could do the same with these acts of violence so that we can discover a solution.
Lack of healthcare has dire consequences for the well-being of refugees and can also stand in the way of their integration into new environments. For the four-million Syrian refugees living in the neighbouring countries, their access to healthcare has been severely hampered by the funding shortage facing aid agencies.
Canada has historically been a leading voice for international accountability. Mass violence and mass atrocities being committed in Syria, Ukraine, the Central African Republic and North Korea suggest that states are falling short of their obligations. Expectations are not being met. Canada can and should resuscitate its leadership on this front.