Odd Thoughts: 25,000 steps towards atonement

When the 25,000th Syrian refugee arrived in Montreal last week, it wasn’t just a milestone achievement, it may have marked a sea change in Canada’s attitude towards people facing humanitarian crises.

We like to think of ourselves as the nice guys, admired by all of the word for the way we care about people in need.

And while it seems we Canadians like to go out of our way to provide aid, we truly prefer to do it out of our way – and the further out of our way, the better.

When it comes to offering help in our own house, our record has been less than stellar.

Forget the red-herring debate about taking care of our own citizens first — although we have an embarrassment of plenty when it comes to numbers of needy Canadians, from the homeless to impoverished First Nations communities that continue to labour under the suppression of institutional neglect.

The fact is that Canada has an abysmal performance record, when it comes to offering shelter from humanitarian storms – particularly when those storms rain on nations beyond those that have provided us with our preferred European stock.

There’s infamous case of the Komagata Maru, a boatload of refugees that sat in Vancouver’s harbour for two months in 1914 before being “escorted” back into international waters by Canadian warships, the sick and hungry passengers left with no choice but to return to India. There, British gunboats obligingly continued the story with gunfire and arrests that resulted in 19 deaths.

The refugees in that incident were British subjects who thought they would be welcomed in this preeminent Commonwealth country… but they weren’t white.

We like to look down our noses at the historical treatment of black and native citizens by our neighbours to the south, but we have blind spots for our Chinese head tax, the Japanese-Canadian internment, special health approvals for black Americans seeking to move north, the Asian Exclusion Act, and the wholesale refusal of Jewish refugees by Prime Minister MacKenzie King – our longest-sitting PM, whose manifold weirdnesses make Donald Trump look pretty darned steady, by comparison.

And then there are the horrors we inflicted – and continue to bury – on our own First Nations people. Especially repugnant are the realities of sexual abuse of children, of cultural torture of entire families, and the “scientific” starvation and nutrition experiments sanctioned by our government.

You’d think helping a few refugees now and then would be the least we could do towards atonement.

When desperate Vietnamese refugees started arriving in their old and leaky boats, Canada’s official response was to bitch and complain and demand they get back on their rusty tin cans and go somewhere – anywhere – else.

Eventually, the government struck a deal with churches and aid organizations to allow more than 100,000 refugee entries in the decade leading to 1985.

The arrival of Canada’s 25,000th Syrian refugee marked the completion of an election promise. It is Canada’s largest-ever uncompromised commitment to refugees from abroad, and accomplished without bending to protests by an infestation of compassionless self-righteousness.

In coming weeks we’ll learn whether Canada has finally grown an official heart, if the flow of refugees desperate for our help continues — or if 25,000 is just a magic political number.

 

 

 

Just Posted

WATCH: Langley art beneath the vines helps hospice

West Coast Fine Arts late summer show enjoyed natural light in a winery’s greenhouse.

Langley health fair aimed at newcomers to the community

An LCSS event combined fun for kids with information on health services.

Election signs trashed on Langley’s 208th Street

Someone apparently knocked down a block of signs in Willoughby.

VIDEO: Cedar Rim Nursery celebrates 40th anniversary

The celebration created a buzz at the nursery with local vendors, tours and a kids zone

Car crash, wires down cause power failures in Langley

Hundreds of people spent some time in the dark Friday and Saturday.

Conservation officer frees B.C. deer from flotation gear mishap

BC Conservation Officer Service is reminding residents to keep backyards clear of entanglements

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

B.C. deaf community wants different sign languages on federal accessibility act

Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized on the Indigenous Language Act

Remainder of Vancouver Whitecaps season filled with ‘must-win’ games: coach

With Vancouver currently sitting four points out of a post-season spot, each contest is crucial

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Tragic accident claims life of B.C. toddler

Fundraising effort has been created to help mom and family

B.C. nanny charged with sex abuse of 3 children

Saanich Police seek potential victims of Johnathon Lee Robichaud from Central Saanich

Most Read