In the autumn of 2015, folks at my church got very excited about the opportunity to sponsor refugee families from Syria. Plans were made, funds raised, paperwork submitted - and at one point, an apartment was rented. And then, we waited... and waited. Finally, a Syrian family arrived that our parish could sponsor - in March 2017.
"Philoxenia" is a word that encapsulates the concept of showing love, compassion, and hospitality toward strangers. While I often hear the term "xenophobia," (fear of the strangers) I had never heard an antonym for it. Philoxenia is just that. I would love to see "philoxenia" become as commonly used (and practiced) among us as it's opposite. It's what the world needs now!
As much as I craved my mother's warm embrace, the smell of the sea and the happy moments that I did share with my partner in our home, I couldn't help but wonder if my homophobic attackers were still around. And that uncertainty - coupled with the fact that our love is still considered a crime there - was my wake-up call.
Barriers and containment will not stop people from fleeing, and deportations to unsafe countries merely returns victimized people to unending uncertainty, oppression and abuse. Let us ensure that our treatment of vulnerable people trapped in the desperation of the global migration system remains dignified.
Canada has a compassionate, principled approach to both immigration and refugees. Our government's inability to control this developing situation may ultimately do harm to our current refugee system, ultimately causing Canadians to have a lack of faith in the system, and ultimately in the government that is charged with managing it.
To be exceptional is to be unusual, rare or outstanding. Right now, we are none of those things. To be exceptional is to figure out a way to make it safe for refugees fleeing the U.S. to come to Canada and to give them a chance to contribute to our country, without having to go underground yet again.
They launch crusades of violence against the easiest of targets: the racialized Other, the immigrant, the slum dweller, the refugee. They promise a return to a Utopian past at the expense of their chosen scapegoats - each one of a certain colour, geographic origin or religion - only to guarantee an impoverished future for us all.
Immigration is a basic fact of Canada, as old as the country itself. Indigenous peoples were the first inhabitants of our land, followed by generations of newcomers who came in search of peace and prosperity. This continues to the present day with the arrival of immigrants and refugees from around the world. Newcomers are a source of strength for Canada. Everything in our history shows this to be the case. Diversity is a source of insight, ideas and energy that deepens our ability to solve problems and to engage with the world.