Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Closing the Door on Community Sponsorship - an open letter to Bernadette Jordan
Dear Ms. Jordan,
I'd like to begin this letter by saying thank you for your personal support of the Syrian Refugees in our community. When the story of Rezan, a talented dress maker, and myself aired on CTV, you immediately contacted me and inquired how you could go about ordering a dress from Rezan.
I'd also like to make it clear that I feel Prime Minister Trudeau has set a great example to the rest of the world with his welcoming words and actions toward Syrian refugees. Canada has indeed done plenty. But as the United States closes their door on human suffering, we need to open our door wider.
After filming this video for CTV, Rezan and Shahnaz, the young Syrian couple who were sponsored by The Mahone Bay Community group, sat and waited for their ride home. I chatted with Shahnaz about her family. It didn't take many words to understand that she is worried sick about her parents who were left behind in Turkey. Rezan and Shahnaz are Kurdish and the Kurds face discrimination by the Turkish government.
Because I had already had several conversations with some of the volunteers who sponsored Rezan, Shahnaz and their four year old son, Ali, I knew that the same group was already working to bring Shahnaz's family to Mahone Bay. I assured Shahnaz that the community will do everything in its power to reunite her with her parents. It seemed that nothing stood in the way, but money and time.
On January 25th, our federal government ended the public policy to allow community groups to sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I hope the Liberal government will consider reinstating this policy. The success of integrating refugee families into rural communities depends on keeping families together. Refugees often leave small communities for larger urban centres out of a sense of isolation.
Although Rezan, with his wicked sense of humour, joked that he was in no rush to be reunited with his in laws, it is urgent that we make it possible for Shahnaz's parents to join them in Mahone Bay. There is no greater support to any family, let alone a refugee family, than grandparents.
New immigrants enrich our community on so many levels. They bring new skills, new cultures and diversity. Government sponsored refugees often fall through the cracks when their one year sponsorship has ended. In small communities, those who have worked tirelessly to sponsor and support refugee families will not walk away when the one year period has ended.
I am hoping you will share this letter with your colleagues in Ottawa. It's important to see the faces behind the policy.
Thanks so much,