Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looked at the body of a boy on a beach, and his heart broke. The boy was a refugee who never made the promised land. Trudeau, in the midst of an election campaign, pledged, in the name of that boy, to bring 25,000 more Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of this year. To be clear, that gives him 44 1/2 days to complete that task (at time of publication.)
He gained votes with that promise. He probably lost some too. There are many people in Canada who think a) accepting refugees, especially Syrian refugees, is dangerous, or b) fast-tracking the refugee process is dangerous. So Trudeau probably lost as many votes as he grabbed with his pledge to find homes for 25,000 refugees in less than two months. Of course, he wasn’t expecting – who did? – an ISIS terror attack on civilians in Paris on Friday Nov. 13. Now, the conversation has changed.
Now, people aren’t wondering how the Canadian government will manage to find homes for 25,000 people; rather, people are wondering if the Canadian government should find those homes. Now, people have the Paris Terror Attack to use as ammunition in their quest to keep Canadian borders tight. They say, for example, “a terrorist might slip in.” They say “Canadians will die.” They say, “there’s no blood on Trudeau’s hands – yet.”
These are the words of fear. They come from the mouths that should be saying, instead, “we live in a terror-ridden world; we are all afraid.” Some people have a hard time admitting they are afraid.
And an even harder time identifying the source of their fear.
It used to be that we rejected people because they were different from us. They didn’t look like us, or act like us, or speak like us. But we, as Canadians, are far beyond that. We accept people of different skin colours, hair types, language and food preferences. We are a friendly country, a multicultural country.
But we are afraid. Not because of our immigration policies, but because of the terror in our world.
Twenty-five thousand people is a lot of people. And we should have the conversation about how best to rescue refugees – not just from Syria, but from other countries as well. But we should not change that conversation because of what happened Friday in France. Friday in France is terror. We should say, “I’m afraid.” “I AM afraid.” My neighbour, who is Syrian, is also afraid. Afraid of terror. Not afraid of refugees. Not us. We are Canadians. Be afraid. Be vigilant. But above all, be loving.
Trudeau will need to consider his plan to bring in that many refugees in 45 days; but not because of Francc, but because we need to do it right; we need to do it carefully, and we need to be able to celebrate the outcome.
Don’t be afraid to have the conversation about how and when to shelter those in need, but toss out the question of “if.” We are better than that.