This is a photo of Ukrainian refugees. Anyone of them could be related to me. My grandfather was an immigrant – a refugee. Some of my Irish relatives were refugees. Quite a few of my co-workers, past and present, are immigrants and refugees.
This country was built by immigrants and refugees. There are 25 000 Syrian men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, are homeless. Nationless. They have lost everything and there is no real hope that they will ever be able to return to the country of their birth. We are offering them a home; a place of peace. A place where they can rebuilt their futures, the future of their children.
“Oh but”, the naysayers say, with false authority and ignorance…”They are Muslim. They will bring in Sharia law! They will bomb us in our sleep!” Comments that do not dignify a response.
My mother told me about how the Ukrainians were treated when they arrived. Ignorance, apparently, is a constant. The one thing we can count on, to never change, throughout time. They were called ignorant, stupid, dirty, unwashed. They were called traitors, sent to concentration camps when the First World War raged. And some of them died there. They sought a better life in Canada and were rewarded by being ripped from their homes, sent to camps far from friends; were treated like animals and died of disease.
The Irish fared little better, although they were not sent to camps. The Italians, the Polish, the Sri Lankan, the Indian, the Jamaican, and the Haitian – they all arrived and were treated by some as lower class, unwanted visitors. These people overcame the loss of their pasts and created futures for themselves and for us.
These people have all come here and built this country. It was not the sole domain of the French or English Europeans; in fact, these two groups did and do their utmost to take full advantage of the new Canadians.
I’ve lived a long time and I’ve seen a lot in those years. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that no one race, creed or colour is lesser than another. Every race, creed and colour has their burden to carry by way of the wrong-thinking, anti-social elements. It is yet another thing we all share, something we all have in common.
We celebrate Remembrance Day tomorrow. A day where a good many of us remember our ancestors who fought and died for our country, for our freedom. These Syrians are fleeing the same tyranny that our forefathers stood against and yet, some Canadians seem to be able to justify wearing their poppies while vilifying immigrants and refugees. The hypocrisy makes me want to rip those poppies out of their lapels. They miss the point. They miss the point entirely.
Personally, I welcome these people. I hurt for all they have lost because I do acknowledge that my ancestors, the ancestors of my friends, all found themselves in the same position as they arrived on Canadian shores; speaking foreign tongues, coming from different cultures and different religion.
To the naysayers? Your ivory towers had their foundations built by people from across the miles, the oceans, as well. Think about it.