Amnesty International Canada Secretary-General Alex Neve was in Lacombe on Sunday and delivered an impassioned plea at Burman University’s Herr Lecture Series for the world to have more empathy to the millions of people who have been displaced throughout the world due to conflict.
According to Neve, there are over 25 million refugees worldwide and that number balloons to 65 million when you count displaced people who have not made it across international borders to make a refugee claim.
This number, which is roughly around double the population of Canada, is staggering but Neve said the refugee crisis lies not in the numbers but within the intolerance and bigotry of governments who spend billions of dollars forming policy that alienates and denigrates displaced peoples.
In this sense, he couldn’t be more right.
The Global North, which roughly equates to wealthy, prosperous countries within the northern hemisphere, has enough resources to approach this global crisis with empathy, compassion and, indeed, funding.
Instead, anti-immigration and anti-refugee fringe groups in Canada, the United States and Europe have began to take a larger role within their countries’ political systems, which has ultimately led to racist rhetoric and dogma which effectively strands refugees in situations that could cost them their lives.
Is this who we are?
Will we allow our world to be run by voices that not long ago were only heard in Klan meetings?
‘We shouldn’t’ is the easy answer to those questions.
But what does action effectively mean when forming policy that is compassionate to displaced peoples and yet respectful of people concerned with where their taxpayer dollars are allocated?
It means that policy needs to be crafted by everyone who is at the table — including refugees who’s voices are often neglected when it comes to policy formation.
Fifth, fourth, third, second, and first generation Canadians, along with newcomers all need to be consulted and heard in this process in order for fair governance to commence.
As is with government and most other things, no one is likely to get exactly what they want but one thing needs to be respected in the process: the rights and liberties of everyone.
It is fair to request thorough vetting of anyone who immigrates into Canada in anyway. It is unfair to view someone as a criminal for fleeing a country to save their own life and their family’s lives.
It is fair to wonder about how refugees will be settled into Canada. It is unfair to assume they left their country solely to leach off the Canadian taxpayer and collect benefits.
It is absolutely crucial to recognize the humanity and rights of everyone who crosses your path and refugees 100 per cent, no doubt about it, are deserving of equal rights and dignity.
Attaching an omnibus criminality to millions of people who have chosen to run away from criminals is the first step down a slippery path of totalitarianism and we must resist the idea that our prosperity is at risk when we help others in need.
So instead of applying derision and mistrust to the 65 million displaced people around the world, try to have some compassion and attempt to learn a little more about the deplorable conditions that other human beings are currently living with and don’t deserve.