“I must say I am very thankful for all the support I received from the government and the Canadian people. I have experienced nothing but kindness and understanding from every corner of Canadian society, and there has not been a moment where I felt like a refugee or that this wasn’t my country.”
-Nabel Alali, Father, Husband, English Teacher, Syrian Refugee to Canada
Toronto – March 31, 2017 – Refugee Rights Day annually commemorates the April 4, 1985 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that refugee claimants are fully protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and are legally able to challenge a denial of their refugee status by the government.
Last year alone, war, conflict and persecution forcibly displaced more than 65 million people across the globe. Of these, refugees account for almost one-third of all forcibly displaced people. It is often hard for us in Canada to fathom the type of suffering that our brothers and sisters experience daily in other countries. Often it is the “lucky ones” who were able to escape, typically with nothing except the shirts on their backs, will become refugees.
From some perspectives, the last 12 months have been particularly disastrous for refugees. With the rise of populism south of the border and in a variety of countries across Europe, we have seen many Western nations become more insular and inward looking. We have experienced the rise in xenophobia, racism, and other types of prejudice and intolerance.
The imagery of immense suffering from places like Aleppo, and parts of Somalia and Afghanistan, seemed to have culminated in a single image of young Alan Kurdi lying face down in the sand on the banks of a Mediterranean beach. There was now a sense of urgency that we must act.
Canada rose to the challenge. With over 39,000 refugees being settled in Canada in 2016, we certainly know that through all the politics, analysis, logistics, and some pushback, Canada and its peoples have gained and will continue to gain far more than we have given with the arrival of these new families.
Refugee Rights Day continues to be a meaningful annual reminder of what our country can be if we put forward our best, while at the same time reconciling our past. #refugeeswelcome
Paul R. Meinema