Over the next few weeks decisions will be made about the Pusumas, a Roma family that has lived inside Toronto churches for about two years. Pronouncements will be heard that will conclude where they live and in fact, how the rest of their lives unfold. The Pusumas are hoping they will receive a fair hearing and that our government will act compassionately and justly with the knowledge that a very dangerous landscape faces them should they be forced to return to Europe.
There's something really sexy about Italy's once mighty capital. It's a warmth that moves through you, like a generous glass of Sangiovese. An energy difficult to describe, unless you've wandered it's winding paths. The feeling that, at any moment, something irrationally romantic will occur. This is Roma.
With little fanfare, Canada was scolded last month by both the United Nations and Amnesty International over its human rights record. Yes you read this correctly -- Canada. The two areas that attracted the most attention by the UN/ Amnesty International human rights experts were Canada's record when it came to refugees and internally the manner in which we continue to discriminate against our First Nations people. As Canadians we consider ourselves to be open, honest -- a welcoming society. Yet for those from afar struggling to build a new life and for our First Nations right here struggling to change their lives for the better, that openness rings very hollow.
A designated country of origin (DCO) is a country declared as "safe," on grounds that it can provide adequate protection to its citizens and therefore not likely to produce refugees. It also discounts the treatment of some minority groups in so-called "safe" countries perhaps most particularly, the Roma in Europe.
Toronto, is seen as "some kind of paradise" to Roma in Hungary, who face daily persecution. This brought on a nauseating feeling as I thought of the current government's portrayal of Hungary as a "safe country" for the Roma people, who are themselves portrayed as bogus claimants. I thought of the Roma refugee claimants I have seen in my clinic, who are simply trying to find safety for themselves and their families, like anybody would.
One of the more pernicious elements of the new Immigration and Refugee Bill C-31 is the so-called "Designated Safe Country" (DSO) rule. This would designate certain countries as "safe" more or less assuring that refugee claims from any such countries would be quickly rejected. The Romas are a prime target.
On Monday, Cabinet Minister Joe Oliver made a federal funding announcement at Toronto General Hospital. However, within minutes of Minister Oliver taking the podium, something truly exceptional occurred; emergency room doctor Chris Keefer walked boldly up to the front of the room. Despite attempts by a hospital administrator to shut down Keefer's interruption, he nonetheless persisted.