65 Million people in the world are now living as refugees, more than at any other point in human history. June 20, 2016 gives us a chance to focus the world’s attention on:
-the plight of refugees and displaced people around the world
-the causes of their exile
-their resolve and will to survive
Developing both an awareness and understanding of the complex nature of the refugee, due to many factors and moving parts, is important toward acknowledging the international community’s role in aiding refugees today. Above all else, it is vital expose the Calgary community to the definition of the term “refugee,” which according to international law is specifically someone who is fleeing armed conflict or persecution and has sought refuge across international borders.
The UNHCR puts it plainly: “These are people for whom denial of asylum has potentially deadly consequences.”
Misunderstanding the term can have dangerous consequences for refugees, and often gives way to political debate and xenophobia in place of relief during a humanitarian crisis.
In terms of the Syrian refugees, millions are in fact displaced in neighbouring Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, where massive populations are living in camps near the borders. The daily influx puts incredible strains on these host countries and their resources, especially when it’s a relatively small country like Lebanon, which currently has about 1.2 million Syrian refugees, while the country itself only has a population of about 4.5 million. Canada is committed to helping refugees and has one of the largest refugee resettlement programs in the world. The 25,000 refugees absorbed into 35 million here in Canada however, pales by comparison.
South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, and the Central African Republic are all also in state of humanitarian crisis: emergencies around the world today that threaten millions of refugees. Families and children forced to flee their homes arrive in refugee camps daily with little more than the clothes on their back. As Canada resettles refugees to save lives and provide stability to people fleeing persecution who have no hope of relief. My great grandfather, a peasant farmer living under the oppressive boot of serfdom in Ukraine came here to make a better life for his family – in many ways for the life I have now. I take pride in coming from a country that throughout its history has continually offered a foothold of strength to newcomers, while upholding human rights, and safeguarding an inclusive, open and sustainable nation, and above all else ensuring human dignity for the most vulnerable populations of our world. Canada is about the deconstruction of ethnocentrism and the undeniable truth that in our diverse and global community, life has many paths upon which to unfold and not only one. Above all else, although the values and beliefs of any single culture will never be universal, it is in celebrating this undeniable truth that our sense of being Canadian is born.
These are not just words, although to many of us they appear to be – the many of us who have been blessed with our ancestors coming here 2 and 3 generations ago who easily forget the beacon of hope that Canada still exists as the world over. People come to Canada for what we take for granted – they come here to quench the very human desire to be treated with respect, to have equal rights, freedom of religion and lifestyle, education and healthcare, to be free of conflict and war, and the right to live life, for the most part, however they see fit, without fear of repercussions and with pride and hope for the future.
Things we would all right. Rights we all should have.