Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Syrian Refugees and the Friendly Holiday Isle

The other day I told you how Scotland was getting ready to welcome its first group of Syrian refugees, and how that small country had been working hard to try to make them feel at home.

In a country so different from the ones they were coming from.

Well now they have arrived, on a miserable cold wet afternoon in Glasgow, which must have made at least some of them wonder to what icy grey hell had they been condemned.

But they did get a warm welcome. 

And this picture probably sums up how many of them were feeling...

Excited to be in a new country, and safe at last. But also apprehensive about how they will be received. And all traumatized to some degree by what has happened to them.

But at least the fifteen families who will be heading off on a ferry to the isle of Bute, off the West coast of Scotland, won't have to worry about how they will be received... 

Because the people of that little holiday isle have been going to extraordinary lengths to greet them with open arms, even though, as in Canada, not all who live there are happy to see them. 

In Rothesay there is a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement among local people, eager, it would seem, to show their new neighbours what a good Scottish welcome feels like. There is too, though, a barely discernible patina of unease. When Argyll and Bute council announced that Rothesay would soon be hosting 15 Syrian families, not everyone was happy. A few unsavoury comments began to appear on the website of The Buteman, the esteemed local paper.

And some grumbling bigots had to be slapped down by the local paper's editor,

“Mostly, these are just not-very-thinly-veiled ways of people saying ‘I don’t want them in my back yard’. Well, I do. I want Bute to be a place where people who come here with little more than the clothes they are standing in can feel safe and at home.”

But what I find most moving is how most of its residents, who are some of the whitest people on earth, so white you have to put on shades when they take their shirts off on the beach lest you be blinded by the glare, have been eagerly getting a crash course in multiculturalism. 

Preparing places for the refugees to stay and pray, setting up a small Halal butcher's shop, making sure their favourite foods are available, preparing videos to welcome their children to school, and planning many other small acts of kindness to make them feel wanted.

And what also strikes me, is how in a town like Rothesay that has seen better days...

So many see the arrival of the refugees as a way to restore pride in their community.

"What these families, and many others like them, have endured is beyond our comprehension, and it will be an honour to give them respite and shelter. I am so proud that this island has stepped up to the mark to help.”

Just like I'm hoping Canadians will see welcoming our refugees as a chance to repair our country's pride, after having our image as a caring nation damaged so badly by the miserly actions of the Con regime.

And I really love this:

On 13 December the community will come together at a film night in the cinema for a special screening of It’s a Wonderful Life, the nation’s favourite Christmas movie. The cinema has provided its premises, and Aidan Canavan, owner of Bute Brewery, will provide mulled wine. It’s already a sell-out, and money raised will go to help provide the new Syrian neighbours with any other material basics they might need.

Because after living so long in Stephen Harper's monstrous version of that movie...

I feel we need to make a grand gesture to finally put that nightmare behind us.

And celebrate like George Bailey does, when he realizes he is back in beautiful Bedford Falls again, and not in ugly Pottersville anymore.

Or whatever...

And like the people of the holiday isle make it a very special holiday season for the refugees and ourselves.

For the citizens of Rothesay, bruised a little and buffeted in harsh times, the arrival of 15 wretched Syrian families could be the best Christmas gift any of them will ever receive.

What better gift indeed? What better way to show the world that Canada is back?

Than by taking in those suffering people, and making them feel welcome...

Please click here to recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers


  1. Anonymous7:06 AM

    Some folks in northern BC have a petition which states they don't want any Syrian refugees because they might take jobs away from locals. What a lame excuse. To her credit, Christy Clark (BC premier) is welcoming refugees to BC.

    1. hi anon...yes that's a familiar argument, and as the editor of that local paper wrote, it's just a cowardly way to deny refugees a safe haven. I'm glad some of the premiers are doing what they can to help make the move work, and I am hopeful that it could turn out to be a wonderful and healing experience...

  2. I'd rather have Canada have a reputation for being too generous. Too trusting.

    Especially since the sort of people who raise such criticisms are generally stupid, racist, ignoramus right-wing voters.

    "We should look after our own before we welcome tens of thousands of refugees."

    And then they consistently vote for right-wing politicians who slash programs for the poor.

    To H-E dubble hockey sticks with 'em. (I heard you don't like swearing.)

    1. hi thwap...I completely agree with you, if we are too afraid to help desperate people, what kind of people are we? I don't think there is much of a risk, but even if there was I think it's one worth taking. For to do anything else would be to betray our humanity and play into the hands of the terrorists...

  3. Anonymous8:44 AM

    This is such a heart warming story. Some Canadians are so small minded and uncompassionate that I don't recognize my country.

    1. hi is a wonderfully human story isn't it? And yes some Canadians are small minded and selfish. But the good news is that there are many all over the country who are working hard to welcome the refugees, so I'm hoping it will be a success, and one we can celebrate for years...

  4. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Thank you, Simon! A lovely post. There is too much bigotry going on in Canada right now. My only consolation is that it will pass as does everything. People will get over it in time! What a beautiful thing the people of the Isle of Bute are doing. God bless them and their kind and giving hearts!

    1. hi anon...thank you, I'm glad you liked the post. It was a pleasure to write about something so wonderfully human at a time like this one. Like you I hope that the bigotry that was sown by the Cons will soon fade along with the fear, and we can show the people from the Isle of Bute that kindness is contagious...

  5. If every one of those bigots took the time to think about where their own families came from, under what conditions they arrived, what possible hardships and bigotry they might have endured, it might make them think again about their attitudes...nah, maybe not...

    1. hi mizdarlin...I know it is frustrating isn't it? People forget their own history, or how this country like the U.S. is a country of refugees and immigrants. How else would we describe the loyalists who fled the revolution south of the border? It's so narrow-minded and such a pity, because I believe that refugees, who don't take our democracy for granted, can make some of our best citizens...

  6. Some people will bi.....h. and complain , no matter what! Sad that these people don't have compassion for others.......

    You reap what you sow!

    1. hi do indeed reap what you sow. Those who sow love and kindness will get to live in a beautiful garden. While those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind...


    8:45 mark

    10:42 "As director of CSIS, I am confident that the measures in place are robust, and again I have full confidence in terms of being appropriate."

    So if Canadians fear that some of the Syrian refugees coming to Canada could be terrorists in disguise....

    “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

    1. hi david...yes I've noticed that both the RCMP and CSIS have said they are satisfied with the screening process, so those who claim we would be invaded by terrorists are barking or yapping up the wrong tree, and really need to get a grip, or grow a pair....

  8. e.a.f.2:41 AM

    the petition in northern B.C. isn't getting much traction. More were killed in distractive and drunk driving than were injuired or killed in Paris. B.C. hasn't given up drinking, driving, using cell phones, etc.

    If some terrorist group wanted to blow anything up they could just come as tourists. Its just some idiots who want their 15 second of fame.

    If your family isn't First Nations, we are all refugees and descendants of refugees of some sort, so lets get with the agenda and follow the e.g. of Scotland and welcome the 25K Syrian refugees coming to Canada.

    1. hi e.a.f..I'm glad to hear that petition isn't getting much traction. And hopefully when the shock and the fear fades away Canadians can rally together and once again behave like Canadians....

  9. e.a.f.1:19 PM

    Given our population of around 35 million, the size of the country and only 25K refugees coming, we simply ought to look at this as having a few extra relatives moving in with us. people might want to remember that humans all have about 97% of the same DNA. So really how different can Syrians be from us?

    Lets not make the same mistakes the world did prior to WW II, Cambodia, Bosnia/Serbia, Rawanda. If refugees have a place to go, then a lot of misery can be avoided.

  10. Share this will those who are fearful about the security screening of refugees coming to Canada: