Saturday, September 05, 2015

Stephen Harper and the Refugee Trap That Could Destroy Him

They buried little Alan Kurdi, next to his brother and his mother yesterday, in the shattered Syrian town of Kobani. 

Just a week ago he was apparently jumping up and down with excitement at the thought of going to Europe, in a boat.

But as we know, like so many other Syrian refugees, he never made it...

But although he lived for such a short time, and never knew anything but war, that poor little boy did achieve something amazing. 

He stirred the conscience of people and governments all over the world.

And he made many Canadians rediscover their hearts.

And that is indeed bad news for Stephen Harper, because he doesn't have one. 

And his refusal to bring in more refugees, at a time when as many as 70% of Canadians are demanding action, could rip off his plastic mask and make him look even colder and more monstrous...

And as Adam Radwanski writes, that could really hurt him. 

In past campaigns, his coldness did not prove fatal to his party’s prospects. But then, Canada’s middling response to a humanitarian crisis – and related concerns about a more rational but less compassionate approach to letting people into the country – were not front and centre.

Or as I believe, even drive the final nail into the Con coffin.

Because it's not just Harper's absent heart, or psychopathic personality, that is preventing him from doing what so many Canadians want him to do. 

The main reason is that that he cannot please them without offending the rabid core of his Con base...

On Friday, an Angus Reid poll suggested that while a strong majority of voters believe Canada should take in more refugees, only about four in 10 Conservative supporters feel that way.

He's caught in a refugee trap. Between Canadians who are rediscovering their values, and the hard ones, the bigots, the beasts who would maul them beyond recognition.

He can't afford to lose the support of his base, and he can't win the election without the support of some of the others. And it must be driving him crazy...or crazier.

For what else can explain his desperate and fraudulent claims?

When nothing can hide the fact, that his criminal Con regime was responsible for slamming the refugee gate shut to please that rabid base.

The Conservative government imposed a new rule for potential refugees in 2012 — a change refugee groups squarely blame for why so few Syrians have made it to Canadian soil.

The rule also appears to have played a key role in the government’s refusal to let a B.C. woman, Tima Kurdi, privately sponsor her brother Mohammed Kurdi and his family to come to Canada.

And what else can explain that he is trying to turn the refugee issue into a question of war?

When everybody knows that all the bombs in the world would not have saved that poor toddler...

But what makes it even worse for Harper, is that Canada is a country of immigrants, and many of them have a refugee story buried in their memories, or baked into their genes.

Like the one that took place in these Scottish highlands that I know so well... 

Where my rebel spirit and my burning thirst for justice was born.

And where in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century, rich landlords evicted about 170,000 of their dirt poor tenants or crofters, just so they could graze more sheep. 

In a brutal move that was known as the Highland Clearances...

Never forgotten and always lamented.

And when I was in Scotland earlier this summer, I heard two very different stories about that dark time.

One was the story of an entire village of crofters heading down the road with their meagre possessions, with every one of them, men, women and children, weeping in despair.

And the other story, that happened years later, tells of another village of crofters heading down another road after being thrown out of the humble homes they had lived in for generations. 

But they were dancing and singing with joy.

Because they were going to Canada. The land of hope and freedom.

Those Scots, like so many other refugees from other countries, helped build this country.

So I've always loved the fact that this statue to the victims of the clearances in Helmsdale, Scotland...

Has its twin in Winnipeg...

And yes, doesn't this desperate Syrian family remind you of those statues?

Here they come again, down that harsh refugee road, like so many others before them.

And while we cannot solve that horrifying situation, we can do so much more to help them.

Which is of course, why I love this story. 

Pollster Jean-Marc Léger said the new poll numbers, published for the first time in The Globe and Mail, suggest Canada is headed toward a minority government at this point, and that a clear majority of voters want a new prime minister on Oct. 19.

Because it's the latest poll to suggest that most Canadians now strongly believe that Stephen Harper is more than good to go.

And that he is, as I have always believed, too cold, too cruel, too crazy.

And above all too small to govern a country as big as Canada....

Let's take comfort and strength from that, and prepare to do what we must do to defeat him and his ghastly un-Canadian regime.

Let's never forget that poor little boy, and all the others who have died trying to escape a nightmare...

Let's thank Alan Kurdi for forcing us to re-discover our hearts and our true Canadian values.

Let's take back our big Canada, and make it once again.

The land of hope and freedom...

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  1. If you view the Earth from space you will not see any borders. Man's Greed will destroy us All!

    1. Hi Kathleen...yes that's a good point. There are no borders when you look down from outer space. Which is of course the only way to look at the planet which is for all of us our only home. But I am encouraged by the way that poor boy's death has moved people and warmed the hearts of many Canadians. And as I said in my post, that couldn't be worse news for Harper and his Cons....

  2. The other day I was researching Brockville, Ontario. This small town is where my paternal Grandparents arrived as young teenagers in the 1920's. They came with their families from the south and north of greater London, UK looking for a better life in Canada. Walter and Edith would meet on the boat they sailed on. While certainly not refugees, they came with little. They would have a short courtship and marry in 1927. Their youngest child, my father, was born 10 years later in 1937. Back to Brockville. Like everywhere else in Canada the original inhabitants, who had lived in the vicinity for 1000's of years, were displaced by American 'refugees' fleeing from their war torn country in 1785. Thus was born a tidy little community that has more or less survived and thrived for over 200 years. According to the 2006 census this town has 21,765 inhabitants. 20,670 classified as 'white'. A sampling of the 1,095 visible minorities include 410 First Nation peoples; 150 people of Chinese origin; 95 Filipinos; 15 Koreans; 55 Blacks; 10 Japanese; and, as of 2006, no people of Arab ancestry. None. Zero. Zip. These are likely the same numbers you will find in most small towns and cities across the land. My point is Canada, on the whole, does a pitiful job opening its doors to those from around the world. Outside of our large metropolitan cities we are *still* pathetically homogeneous. It's not the Montreal's, Toronto's, Halifax's and Vancouver's that need to adapt and accept change, but the smaller villages and hamlets that need to open themselves to something different. While Canadians tend to pat themselves on the back and warm themselves in the glow of our supposed tolerance of people of differing races, cultures and religions I would suggest simple tolerance is not nearly enough. As a matter of fact I believe tolerance is a bullshit concept. To simply tolerate someone or something is simply not good enough. What is demanded is acceptance. Acceptance of that which is different. And in the department of 'acceptance' we are sorely lacking.

    1. Thank you, Omar........I'm sure there are many similar stories like yours across our Great Land. I would like to hear more.

    2. "He was well tolerated by everyone."

    3. I agree. I've always had a problem with the word tolerance. It makes us sound as if we are just putting up with people who are different from us.The word tolerance in the context that it is used of judging others sounds condescending to me, although, I don't think that was what Pierre Trudeau had in mind when he created The Multicultural Act.

    4. hi Omar...thanks for that great comment. And I am afraid you're right. I am a city boy and have been so all my life in Canada, although I have lived in small towns briefly when I was in university and working summer jobs. And I remember them as very white places. We haven't done a good enough job of helping to establish new Canadians in those small towns, and many of the remain trapped in another time. And when you consider that a lot of young people leave as soon as they can, and gay people even sooner, we have a lot of work to do before the acceptance and celebration of diversity you mentioned really takes root. And I should also say to be fair that it's the same thing in Scotland. Edinburgh may be an enlightened place, but in the small towns and villages of the north old attitudes remain. However I remain an optimist. We do have it in us to become a more accepting society, the young are pretty enlightened in that regard, and those old attitudes will die with those who hold on to them so tightly...

  3. Anonymous9:15 AM

    My father's family came from Bohemia running away from the Hungarians who had taken over their land and one side of my mother's family came from Ireland running away from a genocide that is never acknowledged. They came by boat and many of them died on the way too.

    1. There are lots of Celtic Crosses for the victims (and survivors) of the Highland Clearances and the artificial Irish Potato famine; in the latter case, there was plenty of grain to feed everyone. Both of those would be viewed as genocide nowadays.

    2. hi anon...yes, that's what I meant when I said that many Canadians carry in their genes refugee stories. I welcome all immigrants, but since my descendants were once refugees, I have a special place in my heart for those who come to this country to escape persecution. I think they appreciate freedom more than those who take it for granted, and that can only make this country a better place...

    3. hi lagatta...yes the famine in Ireland cannot only be described as genocide. A million people dead can't be described as anything else, when there was enough food to feed everyone. Interestingly enough only a few hundred died in Scotland even though the potato blight ravaged the fields there as much as it did those in Ireland. And the reason was that Sir Walter Scott has so imbued the population with the myth of the noble highlander that they felt a responsibility to help the highlanders. Scott's vision of Scotland was pure fantasy, designed to avoid revolution and keep the working class in its place. But when the famine hit it, it did save countless lives...

  4. martin10:24 AM


    Dale Smith has a good post today on his blog Routine Proceedings about the way the CPC have altered the rules of our refugee system to hinder access:

    I remember visiting Boat of Garten in the mid-90s and being shocked at the feudal rules governing the bed & breakfast I stayed in. The landlady introduced me to "The Trial of Patrick Seller". I believe that Blair did undo some of the rules but I'm not sure if tenants got freehold to their properties.

    1. hi Martin....yes I ran another version of the same story, but the conclusion is the same. The Cons have gone out of their way to favour economic immigrants over refugees, and by so doing have diminished this country. And yes Scotland, for all its new progressive politics remains a very feudal place, with a handful of rich people owning most of the land. The SNP has tried bringing in some mild land reform measures which have been greeted by the lords and the lairds with screams of indignation. However as soon as they make me the minister of land reform and castles, I'll be organizing some modern clearances of my own... ;)

  5. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Harper Government who processed 279,565 temporary foreign workers in 2013 alone "doesn't have the resources" to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees.

    1. hi anon...very good point. I hadn't thought of that, but it's so true. When it suits them they can process people overnight, but if you are a refugee you might have to wait for years, and be lucky if you are accepted. As I said above we need more refugees and slightly less so-called economic immigrants, because refugees with their love for freedom can make very special citizens. And being a more open country can only improve the reputation of all of us....

  6. Anonymous12:56 PM

    Well expressed Simon! Stevie's gentler kinder mask has been ripped off again for all to see that want to. Many of my ancestors came from Ireland to flee the poverty, famine and oppressive governments that gripped the country in the 1800's. It angers me to see our government deny the same chances to current refugees. Also to stealthily enact modern versions of the oppressive laws my ancestors fled. Their continued attack on the Supreme court and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is ongoing.

    1. hi RT...thanks, I do believe that Harper's mask has been pulled off, and I hope Canadians understand how mean and narrow are his motives. Considering how refugees have contributed to building this country, it all seems most unfair to discriminate against them now. I'm extremely proud to be a Canadian, but I will be prouder still when the Cons have gone...

  7. I for one am getting sick and tire of hearing all the ignorant nativist bullshit. Time to curl up with a big bowl of popcorn on this chilly long weekend and watch the big Con train wreck in the polls.

    1. hi Way Way Up...I feel the same way. I'm tired of those little people trying to shrink our big land. They are the same people who try to diminish what our aboriginal people have contributed, and as you know that also drives me wild. I try to treat all people as humans and celebrate our differences. For goodness knows how boring this country and this world would be if we were all the same. Of course I had no choice, since from a very young age I had to deal with the bigotry of others myself. But now I'm glad I was in that position, because I have a natural empathy for those who are oppressed. Let's start by defeating the Cons, and see what we can do to make this country a better and nobler place...

  8. Some good will come out of this. It makes me think of the phrase: "... and a little child will lead them."

    1. hi David...I do hope that some good will come of this. Humans have a hard time absorbing a conflict as large and as complex as the one in Syria where so many have died and so many are suffering. But it is easier to relate to a situation of that poor little child. And hopefully it will move many to care about those other refugees. I was very inspired to see that when a group of refugees arrived in Germany yesterday there were crowds waiting to welcome them and applaud them as they disembarked. And the same thing in Austria. So yes, may that little child lead us to be kinder and more human...

  9. Many of Harper's voter base are far-right wing Christians. If you encounter any who think the Harper regime is doing enough to help Syrian (and other) refugees, show them this short letter to the editor from Dec. 24, 2014:


    In the spirit of Christmas, I ask Christians who are opposed to refugee/immigration reforms to consider one thing: Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees. They had to run to another country for safety after Jesus was born. Would you treat them with the same hatred as today’s children and families who are running from death in their countries?

    — Debbie Linthicum, Des Moines

    1. hi David...yes that's a good point. Jesus and his parents were refugees so there is no excuse for Christians not to open there hearts. And I have to say many have. If it was not for churches and other places of worship in this country the situation would be even worse. And I have always admired the work of groups like the Mennonites. They have a very caring approach, as well as I must add, making some of the best apple pies in the world.... ;)

  10. Canada took in refugees from Hungary, Vietnam, and Uganda,Serbia, Bosnia, all with relative success. Why we can't take in syrian refugees is beyond me. I would suggest HARPER SIMPLY DOES NOT WANT ARAB OR MUSLIM refugees. For details check KEEPING IT REAL blog by HARVEY obverfeld. Interesting read.

    Then there is the small matter of the lack of federal workers who used to process refugees. when Steve fired 50K federal workers a lot of foreign affair and immuigration officers went. So the other question is, who would actually process all the refugees. i would suggest Steve has set the limit so low is because there is no one do process the paper work. he might want to ask the Mennonite Central commitee to take over that. they know how to get things done when it comes to refugees.

    What one small boy's death has done may be more than any thing else that will be done to defeat the Cons. They wouldn't accept this family or 25K other families. People are just a tad over whelmed by this, they may choose to vote against Harper and his 'cons for this very reason. It will be very important that young people remain engaged in this and vote for the party most able to not only run this country, but help others come into this country and that does not mean bombing people to death at the rate of $90KI per bomb.

    1. hi e.a.f....we havbe absorbed waves of refuges before, we can easily afford to take thousands more Syrian refugees, and the only reason we haven't is because of the bigotry of the Cons, and their never-ending desire to pit one group of people against the other for crass political purposes. As I keep repeating, although my family has a long military tradition, and I'm proud of some of the things our soldiers have done, like fighting the Nazis and liberating Holland, my heroes are healers nor killers. And I only hope this tragic incident can make us all, myself included, better humans...

  11. Change the scenario around from Syrian to Israely refugees and harper and his crap party would be falling all over one another trying to help, -- just goes to show what's in store for the non evangelical crowd if this fascist leadership is allowed to CONtinue...