Canada will be opening its doors to 2,000 refugees of the Karen ethnic group, in a move announced by the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Canada first accepted a group of 810 Karen in 2006 for resettlement.
The Karen are a minority ethnic group from Burma who were forced to flee their country following increasing conflict between the army and the Karen National Union culminating in a major offensive in 1995. They are part of a group of over 140 000 refugees from Burma (also known as Myanmar) living in refugee camps, mostly in Thailand. Canada has been working with the UN High Commission for Refugees and other nations to resettle groups of refugees considered most at risk, including those who have suffered persecution and imprisonment in their homeland.
The individuals included in this plan will be resettled throughout Canada over the next two years. Minister Finley spoke of the commitment as part of a broader Canadian policy to ease the plight of refugees. “We look forward to helping them rebuild their lives in a safe, welcoming environment. It is part of our long-standing tradition of providing protection for refugees” said Minister Finley in the announcement.
Minister Finley made the announcement in London Ontario where a group of 90 Karen refugees arrived in November of 2006. According to community groups, things are going well for the recent arrivals, thanks in no small part to the generosity of local citizens. “Here in London, the whole community pitched in to assist and welcome the 90 Karen who arrived in November 2006," said Mary Williamson, Executive Director of the Cross Cultural Learner Centre, where the Karen stayed when they first arrived in London.