Place yourself in the dire position of a family desperately fleeing an oppressive and ruthless authoritarian Middle Eastern regime, along the way risking everything for the elusive glimmer of hope for a better future for your loved ones in North America.
After barely surviving an arduous, life-draining excursion through a hostile desert that claimed the lives of several others in your group, the people smugglers you gave your life savings to unceremoniously shove you and your family into a dangerous dinghy that’s questionably seaworthy.
Turns out the vessel is not. Or maybe the aging boat was just dangerously overloaded. Either way, it without warning capsizes in choppy seas and sinks near the shore along the north Mediterranean coast in, let’s say Italy, which seems to receive much of the incoming traffic. Although almost half of the souls aboard ó including women and children ó perish at sea, you and your family fortunately managed to flee the ship and are rescued by the coast guard along with a few other lucky survivors.
Then, for months or even years more, you linger along through a series of barely tolerable, borderline internment camps before finally being approved to fly to the U.S. And just when you think you’re finally home free, the new guy in charge calling the shots from the Oval Office openly declares his intent to start streamlining and ramping up deportations.
Meanwhile, the leader of the larger yet less densely populated nation to the north extends an olive branch to people seeking respite from tyranny, persecution and oppression.
Faced with the prospect of being sent back to the hell you barely escaped to begin with and rolling the dice with a guy who basically offered his hand and said, “Hey, welcome!” ó what would you decide?
Trudeau’s “Welcome to Canada” message might well have played a role in the recent influx of migrants unlawfully crossing the border from the U.S. But to claim ó as recently did Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel ó that he somehow created the situation is merely preposterous partisan hyperbole.
Even Trump’s less-than-inspiring, fear mongering anti-immigrant rhetoric cannot be fully blamed for the situation. Obama’s administration had actually already been deporting record numbers of people long before No. 45 haphazardly stumbled into office. The burgeoning refugee crisis predates both Trump and Trudeau.
And as perpetual strife continues to plague the Middle East while average global temperatures keep rising along with sea levels, there will only continue to be more and more people seeking out proverbial greener pastures.
But what’s important to remember is that most conflict refugees and economic as well as climate migrants did not endure life-altering trials and tribulations only to become criminals in a new country.
Migrants don’t cheat death to become career crooks, and between Trump and Trudeau their choice is obvious.
Besides, the law in Canada is pretty clear. It basically boils down to what most civilized societies have figured out by now ó don’t kill or hurt anyone and don’t steal. That’s obviously an oversimplification, but the point is the handful of potentially unsavoury individuals who might actually have so far slipped through the bureaucratic cracks remain just as subject to the rules of this country as anyone else, and will be held accountable for their actions.
The massive and ever-evolving global displacement of millions of people ó the scope of which is unparalleled in history since the Second World War ó has been called the crisis of our time.
So how do we want future historians to record our actions: as a benevolent nation that offered the poor and destitute a helping hand; or as a callous, judgemental and fearing country that would not think twice about turning its back on those in need?
ñ Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up, a Great West newspaper
“Faced with the prospect of being sent back to the hell you barely escaped to begin with and rolling the dice with a guy who basically offered his hand and said, “Hey, welcome!” ñ what would you decide?”