Alan Kurdi's image has captivated the world's attention and focused it on the ways in which those with the ability to rescue desperate people have failed to do so, to staggeringly horrific effect. It has focused Canada's attention, because whether or not he had hoped to join his family in Canada, he certainly has Canadian family that cared for him deeply. But Canada's government is not alone in being blameworthy; rather, it is in good company.
It's something the majority of Canadians intuitively feel: politics and politicians no longer seem like a channel for change or action, and so we tune them out. People and even partisans are disconnected from purpose beyond the election cycle. But in an election framed on change, maybe there's an opportunity here to reconnect politics and purpose.
The searing images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi have moved through cyberspace and galvanized reaction around the world. For Canadians, there are layers and hard questions that go further than our basic human response of sorrow. That's because Alan Kurdi's family could and should have been in Canada by now.
It is next to impossible to develop an appropriate plan for dealing with security threats unless you understand what has caused them. And it may seem counterintuitive, at first, to link Canadian national security concerns with international climate change. However, recent negative trends affecting our already fragile climate, and the associated impacts on weather and the global ecosystem, are a real and present danger to our national security.
On this World Refugee Day almost four million Syrian refugees, equivalent to the populations of Toronto and Montreal combined, are far from home and wondering if they will ever return to the life they knew. The Syrian crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, and its impact is being felt disproportionately by the millions of affected children.
The human rights-interfaith dialogue rhetoric employed by President Obama on May 22, 2015 at the Adas Israel Synagogue in Washington DC was wonderful and made people feel warm inside. But this type of rhetoric is, in fact, messianic -- it is for tomorrow, for a time when there is no more war. That day has not yet come, I am afraid. And to speak as if it has is very dangerous.
Years ago, when I was young and reckless, I backpacked solo through Syria. One morning, at the bus station in Homs, I had to make a spur of the moment decision; I could go west, towards the sea and Lebanon, or I could go east, to the ancient city of Palmyra. I turned west. I never saw Palmyra. The 2000 year old city is now in the hands of ISIS.
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.
There is simply no compatibility between humanitarian action and the use of military force in combat. One has as its singular objective the alleviation of human suffering, regardless of the sufferer's identity or affiliation; the other, by definition, involves taking the side of one group against the other. That's also why it is very worrying to hear that humanitarian assistance is being used as strategic tactic in military action.
Bombing only marginally degrades a group like the Un-Islamic State, who take their strategies from the Hezbollah and Hamas playbook: make equipment highly mobile, and positioning them deep underground or among residential areas. To put it bluntly, fighting ISIL is less effective than tackling the humanitarian crisis from which much extremism originates.