I have a lot to be thankful for. Good health, a loving family, a home and a gratifying job. But like many, I often take these blessings for granted. This year, however, is different. Today I am thankful for having shared a cup of coffee with Syrian women refugees in Sawere, a small town in Lebanon's Bekaa valley.
Canada should open our doors in an expedited manner to asylum seekers. For well over a year, Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has join many other organizations in calling for Ottawa accept at least 10,000 Syrians. We have also opposed discrimination against refugees from that region on the basis of their religion.
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.
On World Humanitarian Day, August 19th, the United Nations asks us to "recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others." There are many Canadian humanitarians working with aid agencies to help people in desperate need all around the world.
The Syrian conflict is entering its fifth horrific year of escalating violence, with little sign of ending. More than 200,000 people have been killed, 10,000 of them children. Today over 12.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 5.6 million children. Almost 11 million Syrians have been displaced within and outside Syria, including 3.3 million refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. More than half of the refugee population are children, and 114,000 children have been born as refugees.
When I asked in question period on February 20th whether the Minister of International Development would personally attend the donor conference, pledge, and champion 5.6 million Syrian children, Canada's Parliamentary Secretary replied that: "We are still in consideration of whether or not the minister is going to attend that."
During this holiday season, Canadians come together to care for one another -- we find ways to support our local communities. As we get ready to celebrate the beginning of 2015, I would like to share with you my wishes for the children who are suffering through the world's worst humanitarian crises.
A Canadian woman and her Syrian husband are speaking out from a Damascus suburb because they're frightened and desperate
The enormous influx of Syrian refugees has been difficult for the Lebanese people. Some estimates put the Syrian refugee presence in Lebanon at 50 per cent of the small country's total population. Hala Naufal, an Expert Demographer and professor of Population Studies at the Lebanese University, estimates the Syrian refugee count in Lebanon to now be around two million.
This week, Canadians observed the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. For Sikh Canadians and Jewish Canadians alike, the Day of Remembrance has particular resonance. That our two communities have shared experience in facing terrorism was pointedly on display during the 2008 Mumbai attack.