By Jenn Watt
Published by Jan. 31 2017
Those of us who treasure multiculturalism and open borders and feel a responsibility to welcome others fleeing repression and violence into our country could only watch in horror over the weekend at the situation in the United States.
Refugees and lawful immigrants from five Muslim-majority countries were detained as they arrived at American airports triggering mass protest and a swift response from the American Civil Liberties Union which won an emergency stay on deportations of innocent people.
The stay was needed not only because the detainees had done nothing wrong and had gone through months of paperwork and vetting but also because many of them could face cruelty torture or death upon returning to their countries. Two of the men who were detained were Iraqis who worked for a decade with U.S. Forces – not a popular position to be in if confronted by rebel groups back home.
Saturday night was a roller coaster of emotion as the detainments made the news followed by live streams of protests at major airports and then incredibly the court injunction.
In all of this – not just the Syrian refugee ban but also the multitude of quick and frightening executive orders coming from America’s new president – the question keeps begging to be asked: what can we do?
As Canadians we are outside the fray to a certain extent. We have no vote and no direct voice in what happens south of us but we can make our opinions known and there is an important local component.
First we can use our dollars. We can donate to causes that are important to us. Foreign aid groups about to lose funding; environmental groups that are fighting climate change; the ACLU; American newspapers that could use subscription dollars. Choose the group that aligns with your values.
Second we can stand in solidarity – as we saw women from the Highlands do last week during the Women’s March in Toronto (and in America). Though we are Canadians it likely brings comfort to those in the States to see support north of the border.
And third we can keep our eye on our own political system. Watch what our representatives are doing and saying on our behalf. Ask that our local MP supports immigration and refugees. Pay attention to who the NDP and Conservatives choose to lead their parties in the coming year.
The Americans are suffering the consequences of apathy and weak voter turnout. Let their example motivate us to be more proactive engaged and aware.