Canadians show their government the way
When it comes to helping international refugees in desperate need, it is the Canadian people who are leading the charge. We could be doing more, but some recent news gives grounds to be hopeful that that will soon be case.
For example, the government, by announcing that it will match every eligible dollar donated by Canadians to registered Canadian charities between September 12 and December 31 in response to the conflict in Syria up to $100 million, is fortunately and belatedly following Canadians’ lead. The government has also placed the lion’s share of responsibility for refugee sponsorship on the shoulders of private citizens — and Canadians across the country are beginning to come up with the goods.
Take, for example, my local synagogue, Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, led by the senior Rabbi Lisa Grushcow. As she sensitively and beautifully wrote in the Montreal Gazette recently:
Our congregation has undertaken to sponsor at least one refugee family. We have raised nearly $25,000. We are committed not only to raise enough money to support a family for a year; we will also be responsible for helping them make a home in Montreal as they adjust to a new country, learn new languages, find new work and schools — long after their stories have disappeared from the headlines. Along with other Canadians, we will try to live our best values, and show them the promise of our country.
Since that article was published, and rightly praised, the fundraising has more than doubled. Perhaps it was the heightened sense of community over the Jewish High Holidays, or maybe, as the rabbi wrote, it was the ‘promise of our country’ — either way, something about this current situation has brought unanimity and humanity to the fore.
And it’s not just religious groups that are organizing in this way. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard wants to open Quebec’s doors to Syrian refugees, and he’s leading by example by sponsoring a Syrian refugee family along with his wife and a group of residents in the Lac-Saint-Jean region.
Other Canadian provinces and municipalities from coast to coast have also made their pitch to help out, as have secular organizations and religious groups of all faiths and denominations. All the while, as we approach a hugely important federal election, Canada’s opposition political parties have stated that Canada can, and should, be doing more to bring in refugees more quickly and in greater numbers.
While the situation in Syria, the wider Middle East and parts of Europe continues to be grave, let us continue to show the world that we Canadians are a giving people. We just need to keep up the momentum.