Opinion: Tradition of acceptance

Canada has a history of welcoming refugees and accommodating immigrants. We can't let fear and intolerance change that.

To begin, the Syrian refugee crisis is not new.

In a country ravaged by civil war for nearly five years, the human toll has had plenty of time to mount.

It’s estimated more than 250,000 people are dead so far – the majority civilians.

Another 11 million – roughly a third the population of Canada – have been forced from their homes. Of those, four million have fled the country in a pitiful exodus not seen since the Second World War.

That Canadians are just waking up to this crisis does not change the history. It does not change the fact that children born into this tragedy will soon celebrate their fifth birthday having never known peace and security.

Canada has a chance to change that, at least for some.

The effort to accommodate a small percentage of refugees is gathering momentum. In Chilliwack – and across Canada – individuals and organizations are planning for their arrival. They’re gathering funds, finding accommodations and marshaling services. They are demonstrating the same compassion that led to our earlier acceptance of those fleeing unrest and persecution: the Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Ismailis, Czechs, Chileans, Iranians, Ukrainians, Vietnamese, Bosnians, Kosovars and others.

Of course Canada’s record is not without blemish. The plight of 907 Jews who tried to escape Nazi Germany in 1939 aboard the ocean liner St. Louise offers a good example. Canada refused them, and 254 later died in concentration camps.

It is not a chapter we can be proud of.

But it is one we can learn from.

Canada has agreed to take in 25,000 refugees. Of the four million Syrians fleeing the murderous carnage in their homeland, that’s 0.06 per cent.

Yes, accommodating them will bring challenges.

But turning them away puts us in uncomfortable company. It places us on the side of the fearful, in the camp of the selfish, and in league with the intolerant.

That is a betrayal of a tradition that shaped this country and should not be entertained lightly.

Just Posted

RCMP urge caution for back to school drivers

Police are asking drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians

UPDATE: Police response on Cheam First Nation a ‘non-event’, RCMP say

More than two dozen RCMP and ERT vehicles were at the First Nation looking for a known fugitive

Harrison Lagoon closed due to E. coli

Water samples tested too high for the bacteria

Chilliwack backs B.C. plastics action plan overall

Council is firing off a letter commenting on the B.C. plan to pare down plastics pollution

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Memorial to deceased teen stays in place through Labour Day

Hundreds of tributes have been left at the Walnut Grove skate park

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Speculation tax forces sale of Greater Victoria’s iconic ‘Tulip House’

Bob and Jan Fleming selling their retirement home famous for its thousands of tulips

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

Most Read