The picture this week of the young boy washing up on the shore, the victim of so many western countries refusing to recognize the Syrian refugee crisis, was definitely a sad moment in our world. While many people have used this photo to politicize the issue of refugees in our federal campaign, I am not going to do that. Why? Because for too many years, too many decades, we have ignored the plight of millions seeking to find a life of security in Canada. During the second world war, we turned away thousands of Jewish refugees when they sought help, meaning that several of them died in the furnaces and gas chambers of Auschwitz and other places. While we accepted many people who fled Saigon and Somalia, countless other refugees have sat waiting needlessly long as our government slowly dealt with their applications for status. Many of these refugee claimants were never able to leave the refugee camps that they found themselves in The Syrian refugee crisis of today is just one of many crises that have occurred throughout the decades. In saying this, I am not letting our present federal government off the hook. They need to be held accountable for their inaction. But unfortunately it is not the first time when Canada and the world has not acted fasted enough.
When I think of refugees, I am reminded of the women in the picture above. I took this photo in 2009, when I was travelling in the state of Bolivar, Colombia. These women were internal refugees. They had been farm wives who had been forced to flee. They had watched helplessly as army after army had attacked their farms and killed their husbands and older sons. Armies from the government, mining paramilitaries, the drug lords, and the guerrillas had fought for control of these small farms. They used bombs, land mines, guns, crop dusters, to assert their authority over the families lands. These women had fled for their lives because the various fighting forces did not care who they shot in the cross fire. The women fled to tiny huts with their smaller children. They cannot afford to send their children to school. They barely are able to make ends meet, their only income comes from selling tortillas. These women, hurt by war, remain determined to keep what is left of their families together.
We are very blessed in Canada. The vast majority of us have sufficient food and decent homes to live in. We have not been touched by war. Because of this privilege we need to extend the hospitality of welcome to refugees who flee war, violence, political repression, or what have you. All of us need to push government officials of no matter what stripe to do what they can to become a safe haven for all who are in need or in trouble.