Monday, August 29, 2016

But For Fortune

A little more than a year ago, the lifeless body of little Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. His image went viral and struck a cord around the world. Last week, the image of another battered child -- Omran Daqnesshes, also a victim of the war in Syria -- went viral. It reminded us of the depravity of which we are capable. But it should also remind us, Crawford Killian writes, of our duty to refugees and the benefits they bring with them:

If we treat them as unavoidable nuisances and a drain on our resources, they will become a drain indeed: underschooled, underemployed, alienated, linked to the rest of the country only through the police and social services bureaucracy.

But if we treat the thousands of Alan Kurdis and Omran Daqneeshes as an incredible stroke of luck, an opportunity to energize and sustain the country as a prosperous democracy, we will do very well indeed. They will enliven our classrooms, break our sports records, start new industries and do business around the world in English, French and Arabic.

Yes, they will bring unique problems that our schools and universities will have to deal with. But we’ve dealt with the traumatized and uprooted for at least 60 years, ever since we absorbed almost 40,000 Hungarians in a few months after the 1956 uprising. The University of British Columbia even took in a whole Hungarian school of forestry. We’re a lot better at it than we realize.

The argument against accepting refugees is always the same -- they're not like us. But, if our memories are long enough, we'll remember that we're all refugees. And, but for fortune, we'd be refugees today.



Toby said...

Owen, there is some controversy over the Omran Daqneesh photo. Is it real or was it staged? In this Maclean's article Tima Kurdi, Alan Kurdi's Canadian aunt, claims that the photo "is being used in the West to garner further support for the rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." There are others who claim the photo was faked. Was it? I don't know.

What I do remember is that the claim that Iraqi soldiers killed babies in a Kuwait hospital was staged.

Owen Gray said...

That's worth remembering, Toby. I assume there will be further investigation. Regardless, Killian's point about refugees shouldn't get lost in the furor.

The Mound of Sound said...

Canada is one of just a handful of countries that could be described as under-populated. We still have room and the resources to support growth.

Owen Gray said...

We have room and resources to share, Mound.

Toby said...

It is curious that Mound and others think that Canada is under populated. Where? It is easy to look down from the air and see what looks like wide open spaces but they are not empty. Much of our wildlife is endangered by human encroachment of one sort or another. Farms, ranches and forest preserves cover huge territory. The days are gone when the Northwest Mounted can send their finest out to roundup the Indians and move them onto reservations. So where do we need more people?

Mound has frequently reminded us that the world's population uses up its yearly natural allotment of resources in half a year. Why would he think that we can adapt to more people anywhere?

Look at it this way. If some calamity were to interfere with the super market supply chain could the area where you live become food self sufficient? If the answer is no than it is over populated.

Admittedly, my bias is that I see the population bomb as a bigger threat than global warming. Humans, like all other species, have this nasty habit of expanding population until it hits a wall such as lack of rain and then there is either massive starvation and/or migration.

To me, Canada looks over populated.

Owen Gray said...

It depends on where you look, Toby. I've lived in Montreal and Toronto as well as small town and rural Canada. Some places wish there were fewer people. Some places wish there were more.

The Mound of Sound said...

To answer Toby, I'm relying on the evaluations of the Global Footprint Network, the NGO that calculates "overshoot."

In addition to their global calculations, GFN analysis countries, nation by nation. Of those all but a half dozen are in ecological deficit - that is to say they're consuming resources, mainly water and biomass, in excess of their replenishment rate.

Canada is one of those nations that remains in an ecological surplus which suggests that, for the immediate future, we are not overpopulated. If we were to take some prudent steps - i.e. curbing wastage, reining in overconsumption, etc. - we could readily accept an influx of refugees without taxing our ecological balance.