Refugees? Not in My Backyard?!


The escalation of the civil war in Syria has led to the mass migration of people, the largest since World War II. This has left European nations scrambling and trying to figure out how to deal with the influx of people. It has also exposed the dark side of humankind, where we turn our backs away for those in need.

I understand that it’s a difficult task to find a quick solution when thousands of people are crossing borders on a daily basis. However, the lack of compassion for human life from leaders and the general public is concerning. History tells us that this shouldn’t be a surprise as there have been many instances where Western nations have turned their backs against those who really need help.

Canada prides itself as a multicultural society. It is evident in the streets of Toronto, where you see people of different races and cultures living together and sharing our differences.

That being said, for a nation built by immigrants, Canada has an unfortunate history of turning their backs on people who need it the most. From turning away Indians on the Komagata Maru in 1914, Jews fleeing the holocaust in 1939, the head tax on Chinese immigrants (introduced in 1885), and internment camps for Japanese during World War II, these are some of the instances in which Canada has been on the wrong side of history.

The backlash is evident today with Canada’s commitment to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees. Many are concerned that the refugees pose a security risk, or won’t contribute and will be a drain on the system. As a child of refugee parents, I saw firsthand the positive impact refugees have had.

My mom came to Canada as a refugee in the early 1980s. She successfully ran her own business, employing 30 people who were able to put food on the table and provide for their families. She also gave back financially to the community and causes she believed in. She is as Canadian as those who have been here for generations. Every time she comes home from travelling, she kisses the pillar that is below the Welcome to Canada sign. For her, it’s a reminder of the moment she had freedom.

So let’s focus on the positive outcome that refugees can bring to the country and put aside our differences to help those who are fleeing persecution and torture. Regardless of religion, colour of skin or language, we all bleed red.

-Prat Rajah

Related articles:
Ode to Our Parents
Am I Canadian or Am I Sri Lankan?
The Tamil Community in Canada: A Brief Overview

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