In March 2014, Mustafa heard three bombs near his home in Sheran located in the province of Aleppo, Syria. At that precise moment, he knew his biggest fear was real: ISIS was at their door. This was his tipping point; his family packed a few belongings and tried fleeing to Turkey.
For a country that's historically been known as a wallflower, the attention is long overdue. But we shouldn't become "braggadocious" and let our national ego inflate. In short: We shouldn't become American. Canada has become so popular internationally precisely because of its humility.
The brutal Syrian conflict has forced over 2.2 million children to flee to neighbouring countries and beyond. Basel Alrashdan, 11, and his family were the first Syrian family to be resettled on Canada's Prince Edward Island.
As minister of International Development and La Francophonie, I have visited 15 or so countries and Canada's re-engagement was pointed out to me during each of them. But what does this re-engagement really mean? Here are five major achievements that speak to Canada's re-engagement on the international scene and the impact of our actions.
We have in our midst many newcomers who were forced to flee their homelands, but live in constant fear of being found and forced to return. Their need to escape to this county was just as great as that of the Syrians, and yet that need is often not recognized.
International Human Rights Day should be a chance to celebrate the advances we've made to make the world a safer place for those suffering the threats of hate, racism and division. But we seem to be taking steps backwards. The president-elect of the United States got to that office by unleashing and lending legitimacy to the hatred and xenophobia that we normally look to our political leaders to push back against.
Almost all of the children who study at this school have fled violence in northern rural Hama over a year ago, and sought refuge in caves and tents that are spread along this rural area. Last year, some of the children living in rural Idleb had an opportunity to catch up on the education they have missed.
Now that Syrian newcomers have arrived safely in Canada, they can start building their new lives. As the focus shifts from managing the large number of arrivals to integrating families, particularly youth, we see a critical need for more collaboration, research, and knowledge sharing of best practices in Canada and around the world.
I am proud to see Canada's leadership in welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and hope that we inspire other rich nations to open their doors. I also welcome the increase in humanitarian aid announced by Prime Minister Trudeau this week. But resettlement and money alone will not resolve this crisis. Women and girls fleeing conflict, crisis and natural disasters face specific threats -- including human trafficking, exploitation and sexual violence. These risks are often made even worse by others factors like age, race or disabilities.
Every child deserves a quality education, but refugee children, especially girls, are the most likely to be left behind. Over half of all refugees are children. Only 50 per cent of these children are able to attend primary school; 25 per cent make it to high school; and just one per cent of these students move on to colleges and universities.
Welcoming refugees into our communities implies a responsibility to provide a safe environment for rehabilitation and integration. Yet this weekend thousands of our neighbours will be exposed to trauma in a spectacle many of us would do away with in the first place. The air show is nothing like a charity bike ride. In a city with a large population of refugee newcomers and people who have experienced the trauma of war it is insulting, invasive, and violent.
As Canadians have been doing for more than three decades, refugees from Syria and many other countries turn to our nation's food banks, because government supports for the most vulnerable don't even provide enough money to cover the most basic necessities.
As I flew home from Jordan earlier this year, I tried to digest all of the stories I had just heard: Families of Syrian refugees telling me of their ornate houses back home, now destroyed; of their extended families all living together, many of those family members now dead; of being forced to flee everything that they knew within a matter of minutes, even seconds.
Each refugee-producing situation is different and could be caused by a range of catalysts, including war, political unrest, terrorism or even climate change. However, within each situation, there is one constant: that the needs of girls consistently go unheard and unmet.
Today, we mark World Refugee Day, amidst the most challenging and troubling time for global refugee protection since World War II. It is time to turn the global focus away from the cruel and illegal means now used to keep refugees away; and instead embrace our shared international responsibility to ensure they are safe.
The current global migration crisis has been exacerbated by governments shirking their obligations to protect people during their most vulnerable moments. States are increasingly disregarding their responsibilities to uphold the rights of migrants and refugees, and are failing to treat them with humanity and dignity.