Refugees? Paris? Wait, what?

What’s the difference between these two sentences?

Sentence “A”: “You terrorist, you don’t belong here.”

Sentence “B”: “You might be a terrorist, you don’t belong here.”

Sentence “A” was uttered by two white males who attacked a 31 year old Muslim woman on her way to pick up her child from school. They ripped off her hijab, beat her and then for good measure robbed her.

Sentence “B” is the reason Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall wants Prime Minister Trudeau to suspend his plan to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada by year end.

The concern

Mr Wall says bringing large numbers of refugees into Canada “could severely undermine the refugee screening process” and in the next breath says the Paris attacks “are a grim reminder of the death and destruction even a small number of malevolent individuals can inflict upon a peaceful country and its citizens.” He implied that Mr Trudeau is putting Canadians at risk in order to fulfill a campaign promise.

brad-wall

Brad Wall

Mr Wall would have a point if Mr Trudeau undermined the refugee screening process, but he didn’t. In fact, Bob Paulson, head of the RCMP, and Michel Coulombe, CSIS director, agree that the government’s plan is feasible.

If Mr Trudeau hasn’t compromised the screening process, why is Mr Wall calling for a halt?

Political opportunism

Paris was attacked on Friday Nov 13. Mr Wall fired off his letter two days later.

It sounds suspiciously like Sentence “B”: “You might be a terrorist, you don’t belong here”, but it could be a cynical attempt to frighten Canadians and score points with his conservative supporters.

Meanwhile French President Francois Hollande said France would not turn its back on refugees despite the horror of last Friday, which leaves Mr Wall a little exposed.

Alberta’s reaction

All the leaders of Alberta’s political parties took a moment in the Legislature to condemn the terrorist attacks.*

Premier Notley reiterated her support for the refugee resettlement plan saying that Alberta had welcomed refugees for decades and that here they can “begin a new life, a safe life, a life of promise and opportunity.” She noted that refugee families contribute to Alberta’s communities, its culture and its prosperity.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean invoked the ghost of Stephen Harper.

wildrose

Brian Jean

He echoed Mr Harper’s view that “this international movement of evil has declared war…on the western world…on nations that are free, democratic, and tolerant…on each and every single one of us in Canada.” He issued a call to arms—“with each such declaration of war…now is the time to fight back”—and confirmed his support for Mr Wall’s call for a suspension.

PC leader Ric McIver said he believed that terrorists wanted to divide our society and make us afraid. He urged Canadians and Albertans to stand together and reconfirm their belief in equality for all regardless of race, creed, colour, religion or gender.

Liberal leader David Swann rejected the rhetoric of war pointing out that the West had contributed to the violence in the Middle East. He and Greg Clark, the Alberta Party leader, supported the need to help those fleeing violence without compromising Albertan’s security.

But Brian Jean wouldn’t let up. The next day he demanded specifics on the security screening process, where the refuges will go and how the government would provide housing, healthcare, education and social supports to the refugees.

Ms Notley assured him her government was working closely with the federal government on these issues and that she’d share more information as soon as it became available.

Later Mr Jean told the media Ms Notley’s answers were “fluff” and reiterated his belief that “Western civilization is under attack.”

What’s the difference?

There is no difference between Sentence A and Sentence B.

people-tyler-trump

Donald Trump

“A” is used to justify a hate crime, “B” is used to justify abandoning desperate refugees; both sentences are rooted in fear. Fear can make societies do crazy things. Donald Trump says it may be time to “register” all Muslims. When asked how this is different from Nazis labelling Jews he said “you tell me”.

But Albertans have another choice.

We can choose Sentence “C”. When Premier Notley rejected Premier Wall’s call for a halt she said, “We cannot have our decisions being driven by fear.”

She’s right. Now is not the time to talk of war, to pump up fear and fly into fits of insanity like our neighbours to the south.

Albertans are better than that…aren’t we?

*Quotes from Hansard, Nov 16, 2015, p 463 and Nov 17, 2015, p 494

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25 Responses to Refugees? Paris? Wait, what?

  1. jvandervlugt says:

    “I won’t give you the gift of hating you” – Antoine Leiris’ powerful tribute to his wife, who died in the Bataclan during the Paris attacks.

    Susan I am appalled by the racism I have seen by some of my fellow Canadians, politicians and news media with respect to the Syrian Refugees. I heard one reporter mention the Paris attacks and Syrian Refugees in one sentence. Those are two different topics which should be in separate paragraphs, let alone be in the same sentence. Do they (the media) not see the inference they are making? Shame on them.

    If Antoine Leiris who lost his wife and the mother of his two-year old son refuses to give into hate because he doesn’t want to be like his attackers, then what the heck are our provincial politicians doing by objecting and questioning Canada assisting the Syrian Refugees?

    • I hadn’t heard the Antoine Leiris story Joanna, thank you for sharing it. Calgary’s Muslim mayor, Naheed Nenshi, said he was shaken by the racist stuff he was hearing from what he called “a tiny minority” (although I’m beginning to think the “minority” is bigger than we think). Nenshi said the “really divisive rhetoric” that sprang up during the federal election “gave people permission to say stuff that wasn’t polite to say in modern society. And that is absolutely different than it was six or seven months ago.” He’s right. when your (now former) prime minister and provincial premiers portray all Muslims as (a) unCanadian and (b) potential terrorists they give free rein to those who were just looking for an excuse to be overtly racist.

  2. Joe Simon says:

    Consider your fellow lawyer’s comments:

    • Joe, thanks for the link. As a lawyer my first thought was that Ms Taub, while very experienced in individual refugee cases, is making comments about a program about which she has no information. The Liberal government will reveal the details of its resettlement plan tomorrow. The CBC’s Rosie Barton reported today that the Liberal plan will focus on women, children and families in the refugee camps; no single men and none of the people who are flowing across Europe so this should alleviate the security concern. Also some of the screening should already have been completed by the UNHCR, which should help avoid the delays she mentioned in her interview. Her comment about screening for disease is a good one, I don’t know how the government is going to address that, but the CBC reported that 100 government officials are in the Lebanon camp processing up to 900 applications a day. What worries me is that so many politicians and experts are prepared to trash the Liberal plan without having any idea of what it entails. I don’t know whether we’ll meet the target of 25,000 by Dec 31, but at least it’s mobilized the government giving it something to strive for.

  3. I can’t even think straight when I hear of such things. I just read a sewing blog, of all places, where a woman decided to visit the place of worship of each of her friends. She spent the day with a Jewish friend, a Catholic friend, a Muslim friend. She wore a hijab during the service in the mosque. She helped them sort second hand clothes for the poor of the community and she was absolutely struck by the ceremony – a discussion on helping the needy and understanding each other’s differences, even religions, as in the end we are all worshipping the same God. Perhaps if you get to know those who are different you will find that they are really the same.

    • I agree Linda. What this world needs is more people like that woman who decided to check out the various religions for herself rather than rely on the (often) biased descriptions of these religions by others. On the topic of biased descriptions, I’ve seen two CNN interviews in which the interviewers take the position that all Muslim countries are bad because they oppress women (it was pointed out that Muslim countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Kosovo had elected female heads of state) and that all Muslims must accept responsibility for terrorist attacks because they must have known the attacks were being planned and didn’t alert the authorities (the global intelligence networks failed to ferret it out but the local Muslim community should have?). Anyway people need to think for themselves because the so-called news media is not doing its job.

  4. Peter Usher says:

    Trump wants to build a wall; a senseless, inaminate object. It will be a huge and expensive undertaking. Canadians can help Trump. We can send him a ready-made Wall that will deter any self-respecting refugee, and perhaps a few terrorists. The Wall even has a name and he’s from Saskatchewan.

  5. Liz says:

    Refugees – typo in spelling in title, I think!

    Cheers!

    Liz

    >

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    As usual we transformed a serious issue into political circus.
    On the government side the issue is no longer settling 25 thousand Syrians but to try to do it within a month – it is now the Refugee Olympics. The Opposition side, now headed by the new Harperite Brad Wall, the objective is to outdo Donald Trump in exotic security issues as if there are no terrorists in Canada yet. Really? Hmmm I am more afraid of their naiveté then the terrorists themselves.
    I am not even going to comment on this, it is not worth it. I just wished that the government and the opposition would be so concerned about those that in Canada will be dumfounded to realize that these refugees will have a place to live, access to potable water and decent living conditions, access to health care including dental and optical work and to education. Amazing how issues are so easy to resolve when they make international news.

    • Carlos, even your “non-comments” make good points. I was talking with a friend this weekend. He said getting all worked up over refugee/terrorists is a little bizarre–wouldn’t it be easier to come here as a tourist instead of twiddling one’s thumbs in a refugee camp for a year hoping one’s application will be accepted. I’m afraid I can’t comment on the difference between a refugees access to healthcare, etc and a Canadian’s access. I know that the Harper government tried to limit their access so it was much worse than a Canadian’s access, but I think there was so much push back that Harper was forced to back off.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Susan I just want to clarify, if I may, that my point was not against or to compare what we get and the refugees get. Actually I am not for what Harper did. He took away health care from refugees. My point was more that we have Canadians that have no access to potable water for years and we have Veterans with no access to proper health care and it was never, both with Conservatives and Liberals a big issue. Suddenly spending an extra 1.2 billion dollars with refugees is not an issue at all. I just personally do not understand this attitude other than because one attracts international attention and the other no one cares. I just think that accepting refugees is perfectly fine but neglecting our own citizens for no reason at all is absolutely intolerable.

      • Thanks Carlos, now I understand the point you were making. We spent the weekend with friends in Winnipeg and learned of a situation similar to what you describe only in this case its the classic example of Canadians benefiting at the expense of the First Nations. Winnipeg’s water supply comes from the First Nations Shoal Lake reserve on the Manitoba/Ontario border. The aqueduct was built in 1919. The First Nations have been stuck with impure water ever since. And notwithstanding periodic stories in the news, nothing is being done about it. Back to your question, why is it that we can remedy one injustice, but ignore another.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I believe the answer to that question depends on the issue. In this case the rescue of 25 thousand refugees is now internationally known, so lots of brownie points can be gained. Furthermore our reputation gets a positive uplift. Not giving our veterans the proper access to care is something that tremendously affect their families but in general who knows about it. Canadians barely do. Look at what is happening with the murdered aboriginal women. Now that the issue is coming up in the world news suddenly we not only get an inquiry but we get an aboriginal minister of Justice. This issue has been on the cards for decades. The last prime minister was way more concerned with the welfare of women in Afghanistan that suffered terribly in the hands of barbaric men. I can only deduct that barbaric Muslim men are way worse than our Christian ones. After all we all know that here we have no wife abuse right? The fact is that we do not have enough shelters to help them all. Some of them, like the MLA here in Alberta, suffered for years in the hands of her husband without strong enough help to leave the situation.
        Yesterday I took the time to watch the discussion on this issue between Chrystia Freeland and Bill Maher and he was horrified with the genital mutilation, the Sharia law and all of those barbaric practices some Muslims will bring to North America. Nothing was said about the rampant women trafficking going on here. The children sexual tourism with heavy participation from our Christian men, the known abuses of under age women multiple marriages and incest in certain sects and especially the fact that the Catholic Church continues to get away with transferring their priests to other less regulated jurisdictions when their pedophile priests are caught. They continue to be strongly protected by lawyers, should I say sympathetic to the church or that do not mind the dirty money anyway. Cardinal Bernard Law, who covered up the great scandal on sexual abuse of young boys in Massachusetts was reassigned to a senior position of honor in Rome. I really do not think that we have any superior morality to be talking about anyone in the world. We certainly do have a much better cosmetic display but that is a product of our spin era.

      • These are excellent points Carlos. I too saw the discussion between Chrystia Freeland and Bill Maher. Their discussion was a little hard to take given that they spoke in sweeping generalities which made it difficult to have a real conversation, but then again it was prime time TV and it’s aimed at provoking controversy not thoughtful dialogue.

        On a slightly more optimistic note I saw an article in the Globe today that said the Manitoba government is finally introducing a bill to help fund the construction of a permanent road for the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. The road will end the reserve’s isolation and allow them to consider getting a water treatment plant and put in place some economic development schemes. The City of Winnipeg and the federal government will kick in matching funds. The reserve had access to the mainland by ferry in summer, except that the ferry failed government inspection this year, and an ice road in winter, which resulted in deaths from people falling through the ice. Healthcare workers and ambulances refuse to go to the community because access was so difficult. So after 100 years something is finally going to be done. I am hopeful that we’ll see more positive action out of the new federal government.

    • papajaxn says:

      Good to hear your voice Carlos.

  7. I appreciate how you bring this all together. Your post, and Antoine Leiris’ marvellous statements, are great counterbalances to the call for retribution, or fear in the name of “caution.” As usual, I try my hand at a perspective: https://moreenigma.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/is-this-a-wake-up-call/. Peace.

  8. Einar Davison says:

    Bravo Governor General Johnston for leading a forum on the refugee issue. To me it isn’t an issue, it is the Canada that I am most proud of, the one that believes in keeping the peace instead of fighting wars, one that helps countries get on their feet and one that believe if my brother or sister in another country needs a home and a safe place to live then my country stands front and center to help and not to turn our back in fear. I may be a middle aged white guy, but every other person on this planet is my brother or sister, a fellow traveller. Even going back to the 60’s I don’t remember Canada not helping out. Yes many say we shouldn’t bring the Syrians here but I believe those people are few in numbers and they just seem like more because they seem to get all the attention. Perhaps it is them we should turn our back on.

  9. Einar, I’m so glad you brought this to our attention. I just pulled up the agenda for the GG’s forum. It includes key representatives from the government, the private sector and volunteer organizations. And it’s going to be held at Rideau Hall. What better way to welcome Syrian refugees to Canada!
    Your comments express the hope and optimism of the Canada we know, not the one espoused by fear mongers. You’re right, let’s turn our back on them.

  10. Einar Davison says:

    I think our Governor General’s always seem to represent what is best of Canada, I especially like His Excellency David Johnston, he is neither pretentious, nor distant, he greatly loves our country and is an excellent example to us all.

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