After the acts of terrorism in Europe, I have heard people expressing their dissatisfaction over Canada taking large numbers of Syrian refugees and fear of terrorist attacks.
I have no doubt that we will see crimes committed by refugees in the future. Likewise, immigrants or local-born Canadians could be involved in crime. Some of the most horrible crimes in Canada were committed by local-born white males. Should we worry about their presence in our community?
Many, if not most, of the so-called terrorist acts, which include gunmen killing innocents at school or in public venues, were not instigated by Islamic extremism. The common causes are mental illness or psychological reaction to bully. Whether you are talking about the terrorist acts in Germany, or the three cases in Canada (with two soldiers dead in Ottawa and Montreal), or the third case which was recently dismissed by the B.C. Supreme Court, the people who committed or were alleged to have committed the terrible crimes were all suffering from mental illness.
The most shocking revelation of the B.C. case is that it was the RCMP that instigated the attempted terrorist act. The Conservatives had been scaring the public with threats of terrorism, but that was based on ideology and political interest, not facts.
If the U.S. could utilize some of the funds they spend on hitting terrorism for the treatment of mental illnesses, bullying and social problems, there will be a lot fewer victims of terrorism.
Prejudice against refugees could be overcome if we can learn from refugees and our history. The world is watching how Syrian refugees are being settled in Canada. The New York Times earlier ran a huge special feature on how Syrian refugees were being embraced and treated in Canada.
Seeing how Canadians contribute their time, money and heart to the Syrian refugees is touching and makes us proud as Canadians. The fact is, as of this time, Canada Immigration is still not able to let in the number of refugees requested by private sponsors.
Why are Canadians generous to refugees? It has to do with the values, history and experiences of our country. Canada is a country of immigrants and we have a history of taking refugees.
In 1948, 10 Baltic boats travelled along Sweden to Canada; we admitted over 1500 Estonian refugees.
From 1946 to 1962, through family reunification, church group sponsorship and labour programs, Canada accepted about 250,000 refugees.
Between 1956 to 1957, the Hungarian Uprising had made over 200,000 people flee to Austria; Canada took 37,000 refugees within a few months.
At around 1968, Canada took in tens of thousands of US Vietnam War resisters (The War Resisters Support Campaign estimated as many as 100,000 were accepted).
In the same year, Warsaw Pact troops entered Czechoslovakia; the result was that 10,975 Czechs came to Canada in less than seven months. Canadians were mobilized to help the refugees settle in their community.
In 1972, Uganda announced the expulsion of Ugandan Asians; more than 7,000 Ugandan Asians arrived.
Between 1979 to 1981, nearly 1.5 million Vietnamese had fled their home. Canada took 50,000 refugees. Thousands of Canadians worked together to welcome the South Asian newcomers.
In 1999, responding to the request of the United Nations, Canada admitted over 5,000 Kosovar refugees.
Although Canada has taken large numbers of refugees from time to time, rather than being a burden, they have become contributors to our country.
Canada is a young country and we lack the long history and cultural heritage like European countries. We do not share the American Dream nor America's melting-pot culture. Thus, we provide better ground for multiculturalism to flourish; we let refugees and immigrants from around the world preserve their culture and heritage. It helps the newcomers to settle in a foreign country and participate in society.
On the other hand, when refugees are being forced to abandon or reject their heritage and culture, and to copy the white dominant culture, it would make life harder for the newcomers who already suffered tremendously in their home country.
When culture is seen as consisting of a dominant culture and a lower sub-culture, that sounds fine when you are born into the main culture but it can be intimidating to someone born with a completely different culture. The refugees or immigrants would feel that they are the underclass or second-class citizens; those in school could be the target of ridicule and bully.
Some think that refugees are a burden to our society. That is not totally incorrect. When refugees arrive, they rely on government or their private sponsor to assist them, but in the long run, most of the refugees are capable of standing on their own.
How could I be so sure to say this? It is because when refugees arrive, they carry a government loan for their transportation and medical examination. With the exception of Syrian refugees who arrived after November 4th 2015, after Trudeau formed government, other Syrians have to repay the loan with interest.
I have met a Syrian refugee family who arrived prior to the Liberal loan-free date; they have a loan of $7,413.74. It is indeed tough for a family to carry such a burden. Nevertheless, the rate for refugees repaying the government loan is 91 per cent. These refugees have to work and raise enough money to support their family first, as well as to earn more to repay the government loan.
In this session of the parliament, one cabinet minister and four MPs are refugees. In the recent press conferences in Toronto and Vancouver to support U.S. Iraq War Resisters to stay in Canada, two attendees were refugees from the U.S. Vietnam War and they are Order of Canada recipients (In the Vietnam War, U.S. war resisters obtained a permanent resident status upon their arrival at Canada but the previous Conservative government had designated Iraq War resisters as criminals, illegitimate to apply for refugee status).
Canada may be a beacon for the world but in order for refugees to participate in and contribute to our society, government must provide the essential language training and necessary settlement services; otherwise, there will be adverse long-term social consequences.
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