I’ve been thinking about writing a blog about the Syrian refugee crisis for a few weeks now in reaction to some borderline racist posts on my Facebook news feed. Yesterday however, I was blown out of the water by a post so riddled with heinous racism, bigotry and ignorance that not writing this seemed blind. I don’t usually “get into it” on Facebook but here I was replying to racist comments as if I was going to change anyone’s mind. It was my intention to include screen shots from the post but it was taken down this morning.
Just to give you an inside look, I was reading the words “refugee scum”, people were criticizing the fact that “these people” would come take our jobs and were a waste of tax payer dollars and finally, one gem of a human being wrote that we should just bomb Syria and get it over with. He hoped they continued to struggle. One person even called the refugees “pussies” for not staying and fighting for their country. I realize I’ll probably never get these extremists onto my side or even to see my view, but for those on the fence, I hope you take a few seconds to read and think about the beauty of Canada helping Syrian refugees.
Why let in Syrians when there are Canadian citizens suffering
To be quite clear, I don’t think helping Syrians means neglecting our own citizens. It isn’t one or the other. First, homelessness in Canada is not always due to a lack of resources and money. It’s due to a lack of understanding- understanding mental illness, addiction and disease.
I’m not denying that helping our own population takes money…it just doesn’t take ALL of our money. There is plenty of room for funding in Canada to be analyzed and reallocated. Checking up on the distribution of social assistance could go a long way.
Let’s also be quite clear that these refugees are in immediate danger if they cannot leave their own war-torn country. Their lives are at risk.
A Nation of Immigrants
There seems to be a train of thought that because Canada accepts so many “foreigners” we lose our own identity. Well news flash, that is our identity- a nation who is accepting and open to different identities, cultures and types of people. I think that’s pretty, for lack of a better word, awesome. We are so lucky to live somewhere safe and accepting of all people. Let’s also not forget that unless we have fully indigenous roots, most of our ancestors were immigrants at one point and in many cases, needed to be “let in” as well.
Much of this is rooted in fear. Nobody is telling you to give up your own customs and traditions. There’s room for all of us here (literally…there’s so much space it’s not even funny). I still say “Merry Christmas” and nobody has ever gotten upset with me. I’m also happy to say “Happy Holidays” if the inclusivity pleases people.
Taking our Jobs and our Hard-Earned Tax Dollars
This is possibly my favourite point to argue partly because I get to use hilarious memes like this one from Louis C.K.:
So let’s get this straight- you are worried that Syrian refugees are going to steal “our” jobs. I think the idea of refugees working and contributing to our economy sounds great but if you are looking for a job- I know for a fact that several factories in my own town are hiring and having a hard time finding people to fill the positions. You could always start there.
Okay I now promise I’m putting my smart ass aside. It’s important to remember that many of these refugees are not funded by the Canadian government. They are actually privately sponsored. That means people are putting out their own dollars and resources to help a (or several) refugee(s) settle here and restart a safer life.
Of course, there are also GARs (government assisted refugees) to which we will contribute $678 million dollars over the next six years to support. I cannot tell you that our tax payer dollars are not going towards helping refugees but to me, that’s a very worthy cause. A child won’t die because they are getting a second chance. A mother will live to see her children grow up. A family will be brought into what I can only hope is a country accepting of their values, beliefs and culture. To me, that’s pretty amazing.
Letting in Terrorists
I think perhaps the realest, and most valid point against letting Syrian refugees in is that we are letting ISIS terrorists into our own country, leaving us open to attack, threat and danger. I truly believe this is rooted in fear more than racism (it does have a tendency to rear its ugly head though). However, as my friend Justin so eloquently wrote in the comments section of the previously mentioned post- that’s more a problem with immigration policy and screening standards than anything else. In no way does letting Syrian refugees in mean that they should not be screened thoroughly to decrease threat. These refugees are not being given carte blanche to come in without security checks. In fact, according to the Government of Canada website:
“Canada will be working closely with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to identify registered Syrian refugees who can be resettled. Canada’s focus will be on identifying vulnerable refugees who are a lower security risk. Robust health and security screening will be completed overseas. This will include the collection of biographic information and biometric screening of all refugees, verified against databases.”
There will always be a threat that terrorists are coming into Canada, just like there is a threat that domestic citizens could go on a shooting rampage or a tourist could set off a bomb. I’m not denying this. What I am saying, is that the threat is not worth denying our fellow man help. If a terrorist is let in, maybe people will die. If refugees are not let in, more people WILL die. More fathers. More mothers. More children.
Don’t let history repeat itself
My biggest fear is that history repeats itself. I’ve studied the Holocaust thoroughly in school. I’ve researched lots of other genocides and wars. I know how this can end. Canadians have denied boatloads of refugees historically who ultimately perished. In every extreme situation, there are people willing to help. People who have saved or tried to save thousands of lives like Raoul Wallenberg and Romeo Dallaire. So when you are writing on your Facebook wall for refugees to “go home” or worse, to be blown up…think about what that means.