Today is World Refugee Day. The focus in Canada is family reunification. There is a need and an opportunity!
Even though Canada is a world leader in refugee resettlement, it is very difficult for new arrivals to sponsor their refugee relatives. They and supporting community groups are ready with the needed money, but only “a handful” of application spaces are issued by the government each year (the CBAC received spaces for 48 people in 2017 – for all Atlantic Canada!). Such sponsorships are highly successful for all families involved and with minimal cost to taxpayers. However, the door of welcome remains effectively shut behind former refugees.
On April 4 (Refugee Rights Day), I was in a room full of refugee background Canadians, telling them about the problem, encouraging them to use their democratic rights, and helping them write letters to their MP. Most of them were Syrians so I was using an interpreter, but when they “mobbed” me afterwards there was no intermediary.
I was accosted by wet eyes and impassioned pleas. Arabic speakers are almost as monolingual and lingua-centric as Anglophones, assuming everyone speaks their language. However, amidst the barrage of Arabic sounds (what a beautiful, difficult language) were inserted the few English words they’d mastered. I only heard: “…..father…..sister…..daughter…..son…..mother”.
It was heart rending. In their letters they were to thank the government of Canada for welcoming them, tell about the pain of separation they and their relatives were experiencing and call for changes in policy – more spaces and faster and fairer processing. But their letters ended up much like their speeches to me – begging for particular parents, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.
Perhaps political hearts will break. Could you also write a letter to your MP, asking for more immigration spaces for family reunification, especially for refugees? Here’s some info to refer to: http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/family-reunification-campaign-handout-2017.pdf