“Canadians love causes,” Stó:lō First Nations poet and author Lee Maracle says, “but they love the causes that are far away – out of their backyard, so to speak.” That indictment comes from her book My Conversations with Canadians, which details observations born from discussions with people across the country. Though her book was published…
When Nabil Saeed* arrived in Vancouver in late 2016, he came full of hope. Having fled his home in Syria in 2013, he spent three years in Turkey awaiting resettlement and was eager to begin rebuilding his life in a safe and stable country. As he describes it, he neither wanted, needed, nor expected a red carpet upon arrival in Canada. What he most dreamed of was opportunity to make a life in a place where he could use his gifts and skills.
Rietkerk feels that more reflection is needed by Canadians on how to foster refugees into supportive and sustainable communities. “This is a different type of support,” she acknowledges, “and is perhaps more critical than some of the logistics such as food and clothing and housing that support groups really spend a lot of time focusing on in the beginning.”
“I’d ditch the refugee label. They’re just my friends.”
This November marks one year since the Canadian government announced its plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. Since that date, the government has followed through on its promise (though with a few revisions to the timeline) and 30,647 Syrians have arrived in Canada, through a combination of government support and Canada’s unique model of private sponsorship.
Among the many and varied Christian responses I observed to the recent Supreme Court of the United States’ (SCOTUS) ruling to legalize same-sex marriage, it was the Canadian Evangelical Christian responses that I found the most intriguing. Those in favour of the court’s decision were welcoming, as one might predict, but it was the responses against that were striking – not so much in their content but rather in what they seemed to imply: either an amnesia about the Canadian situation or an underlying resignation towards the Canadian churches and deference to the American churches as the last bastion of “true” Christianity.
I’m reminded of the passage in Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats. What should our response be to the health care needs of refugees in our country?
In celebrated Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz’s The Journey of Ibn Fattouma, we meet the traveller for whom the book is named, a man from a troubled land who embarks on a quest for answers. Following his teacher’s advice, Ibn Fattouma sets out on pilgrimage to the unknown “land of perfection” with the hope of returning “to [his] ailing homeland with a remedy to heal her.”
Radwan and his family could never have imagined this.
Prior to 2012 they were, like most Syrians, living in what they thought was relative stability and comfort in their homeland. Of course there were problems — an oppressive government and the rumblings of the “Arab Spring” in particular — but as they watched Iraq crumble to the east and Lebanon’s government dissolve to the west, Syria seemed like a safe haven.
Then civil war broke out.