The Syrian Refugee Crisis is considered the most devastating refugee crisis since the Second World War. The UN High Commission for Refugees says there are four million registered Syrian refugees, though that number is almost certainly low. We often consider ourselves an evolving society. A society that learns from past injustices as we move to a society that is founded on basic democratic principles as well as the universal values of human rights. If we are learning anything from the responses of our current government and this political election campaign ‘My Canada’ is showing our vulnerability as well as our reluctance to do the right thing in the face of tactics that are based on fear mongering rather than evidence, human rights principles and our own Canadian Rights and Freedoms.
Had our current Prime Minister ever taken the time to visit our Canadian Museum of Human Rights he perhaps would identify how precarious civil liberties are. He perhaps would recognize his reactions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis is all to similar to the response of our Government during the Jewish Refugee Crisis of World War II.
It was 1939 and 907 Jewish refugees aboard the German transatlantic liner St. Louis were seeking sanctuary from Nazi Germany. Canada refused to take them in and the ship sailed back to Europe, where 254 would later die in concentration camps.
During pre and post war Canada from a historical perspective there was strong public opinion that supported Canada’s refusal of Jewish Refugees. Anti-Semitism resulted in our Government and many countries around the world refusing to accept Jewish Refugees. The result was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
We certainly cannot change the past but we can learn from it. Our current government response and the response of our Prime Minister although similar to our government of the 1930s has one major difference. The difference today is that public opinion has called for our government to do more. Our government hides behind ‘Safety and Security’ to justify their inaction. Breeding fear, rather than leading our nation in this humanitarian crisis.
“We have this leadership that is appealing to our base instincts of fear, hatred, selfishness, greed. That’s what our government is doing to appeal to voters. And I think we’re better than that. I know we’re better than that,” he said.
“We want a leader who inspires us, who talks about co-operation, about fairness, about justice.”
Mia Rabson in the Winnipeg Free Press wrote an excellent article called Niqab debate distracts from actual women’s issues in Canada . What has become a hot topic in this election campaign; especially in Quebec; is about two women who refused to uncover their face. Two of over 700, 000 new Canadians since 2011.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada says since the rule barring the face coverings from being worn took effect in 2011 two women have been refused the chance to take the oath of citizenship because of it. Yes, read that again. I said two.
First of all the rule barring the face being covered took place during this government’s mandate. Let’s be clear these woman were more than willing to show their face to a female official before taking the oath. Willing to prove their identity. Whether we agree with the idea of the Niqab is not the issue here. The issue is about freedom of religion, faith and beliefs. These two woman were not jeopardizing Canadian safety or going against Canadian values. As a matter fact when taken to court, the Supreme Court found that the rule barring face covering did not meet the standards of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In fact becoming a Canadian should have made the wearing of the Niqab a choice, a religious freedom. Just like the other rights of education, language and all other rights found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada supported this right. Our Prime Minister is dividing us on issues. Human Rights issues. Issues that make certain religions and practices acceptable and others unacceptable. Even the NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has softened his support of the wearing of the Niqab in an effort to regain votes in Quebec after poll results showed his support for these woman lost him favour. The playing of politics at the expense of our Canadian Charter, at expense of human rights is taking us down the wrong path. Despite the Supreme Court ruling our Prime Minister is playing the politics of fear and hatred.
The Prime Minister has vowed to fight the Supreme Court decision.
What other rights are in jeopardy at the expense of politics and the economy”?
We have the issues related to the freedom of our Canadian Scientists. In one of my past blogs called Canada: What is it We Believe In? I discuss how Canada’s decision-making processes is no longer evidence based but fear and ideologically based. It jeopardizes our future economy, health and environment. Democracy is at risk if we deny the public to information. If decisions are made without providing the people you are elected to represent access to data, research and evidence. Freedom of Information is a fundamental freedom that in a real democracy we all should have. Our voices are being silenced as we are asked to believe what is said without the evidence to support it. Our current Government has made comprehensive cuts to our research budgets and made it more difficult to share the data collected with the public which undermines our basic fundamental rights as Canadians..
Without science neither the public nor its leaders can be sufficiently knowledgeable to make informed decisions. Decision-making becomes little more than an exercise in ideology and the use of power. Nobel Prize-wining climate scientist Andrew Weaver argues that “we have a crisis in Canada.” This crisis, he says, “is in terms of the development of information and science to inform decision-making. What we have replaced that with is an ideological approach to decision-making.”
We also have the tragedies of all the ‘Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Woman’ which in an RCMP report on the issue gives evidence to our countries need to do something about not only Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Woman but the violence against all woman and as per the RCMP report especially woman in poverty.
Violence against women is a significant societal issue. According to the World Health Organization, it affects one-third of women around the globe and represents a health problem of “epidemic proportions.”1
In one of my previous blogs called Bystanders to Neglect and Violence I discuss our need to understand our responsibility to protect all our children and vulnerable citizens. We need to all believe everyone is born equal and we must work together to find a way that we remain equal no matter what race, culture or circumstance we find ourselves in. However our current government continues to ignore the human rights issues of our vulnerable citizens. ‘It isn’t even on our Radar’ he has been quoted as saying. How does something identified as a health problem of epidemic proportions not end up on our radar?
The United Nations has deemed the state of our reservations in Canada are like those in third world countries. A UN investigator has indicated it is a crisis.
Canada consistently ranks among the top of countries in respect to human development standards, and yet amidst this wealth and prosperity, aboriginal people live in conditions akin to those in countries that rank much lower and in which poverty abounds,”
Yesterday protestors went to the street singing ‘Harperman’ a song by a former Canadian scientist. The band Blue Rodeo has also gone to the airwaves to speak of the injustices and our democracies at risk. There was a speech at the University of Winnipeg by Ashley Callingbull-Burham who asks the questions:
“Why are indigenous women not considered a priority? How can a leader say that?” she asked. “We are a priority. We are human beings, as well. It’s damn time we were treated like that.”
Ashley Callingbull-Burham, Beauty queen more than just a pretty face Mrs. Universe address elicits tears
Today is another day in the election campaign and we need to have our voices heard. To stand-up for a caring, compassionate Canada. A country not ruled by fear but rather of hope. A country built on creating a future for all Canadians as well as understanding our role in the world as peacekeepers rather than a country that sees war as the road to peace. Canada had built a reputation as a country who could build consensus. A country that could listen to both sides and try to bridge the gap and bring people together. A country that made the world a better, safer place.
I want that Canada back. I know I am not alone.