Syria’s civil war is now approaching its sixth year with no end in sight. Despite photos of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who washed up on the beach in Turkey, focusing world attention on the millions of Syrians that continue to be displaced by the civil war in their home country, there continues to be huge pressure on
Syrian border countries hosting the massive majority of these refugees.
According to the United Nations, 13.5 million people inside Syria need urgent help and almost 4.6 million have already pursued sanctuary in surrounding countries. Thousands still make the distressing journey to Europe in search of safety.
The Syrian refugee crisis may seem like a clear global humanitarian situation for some, but it’s a major cause of discomfort and disapproval for others. Public opinion keeps shifting from supporters to against involvement around the world. Europe’s backlash increased with the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels that triggered growing opposition in the European Union to newcomers, confusing a humanitarian crisis with a migration and security emergency.
In Canada, a country built on immigration and compassionate values, public opinion polls show the highest support for refugees in Canada is in the Atlantic provinces.
Nova Scotia welcomed 700 government-assisted refugees on top of the privately sponsored ones. Halifax and Cape Breton, in addition to many other Nova Scotia communities, are leading the country and setting an example via their engagement with this global crisis.
It makes me proud to see first-hand the great efforts being made by non-profits, community organizations, businesses, ISANS, all levels of government, and citizens from all walks of life to be compassionate, generous, and united.
However, the effort shouldn’t stop there. Efforts to blend immigrants into the community need to include the corporate world recognizing their skills and talents and linking them to meaningful work opportunities. Refugee support isn’t just a humanitarian decision made out of our obligation to protect those in need; it’s also an economic and demographic decision. Experts in Canada highlight the other side of the cost equation, which is an infusion of new, younger, capable workers and professionals to our aging population. That infusion will offset decline and positively grow communities and the economy.
In Halifax, hundreds of volunteers and staff have rushed to help. The fact Halifax refugee donation centres were closed early due to the high volume of donations speaks loud and clear. Nova Scotians filled a 100,000-square-foot building with tens of thousands of items in a matter of days.
Numerous Halifax-based organizations, such as Rotary clubs, church groups, charities, and service organizations, are cooperating with organizations across theprovince and country to raise donations and sponsor refugee families. This is in addition to the many individuals volunteering time and space alongside their financial and housing support.
We haven’t forgotten our immigration history and that we’re home to Pier 21. Our generosity in Nova Scotia goes beyond numbers and you really don’t get to see it until you’re on the ground, working with communities eager to help. This is my Halifax experience.