Feeling Proud to be Canadian
Sunday, December 13, 2015
The first Syrian refugees arrived in Toronto Thursday evening and our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the airport to greet them. In shirt sleeves. Low key and kind.
"You are home," he said. Simple, moving.
One of those joining us didn't even realize he was the PM. (Hasn't she seen the media promo of the Vogue story upcoming? Sophie stunning in her Oscar de la Renta? Guess not, and not so surprising, in our new Canadian's prior circumstances: a refugee camp in Lebanon). However, she was quoted as saying that had she known, she'd have given Trudeau a "big hug". And yup, she would probably have had to take a number . . . .
At the local Staples where I was shopping for items on my Christmas gifts list yesterday, the young woman at the cash register was wearing a pretty lace-trimmed hijab. There was a long, long lineup; I did not hear or see one flicker of anything other than Canadian courtesy and cordiality from any of the customers.
OK, I'm not naive. I know that there will be problems and difficulties with 25,000 Syrian refugees (some government sponsored, some privately sponsored) who are joining us between now and February. It's entirely predictable. There were a few (minor) problems with the influx of American draft dodgers in the 60s. There were a few (minor) problems with Vietnamese boat people. And every other influx of immigrants and refugees going back to the very beginnings -- almost all of whom are now very solid Canadian citizens of great multicultural and ethnic diversity.
I know not all Canadians agree with this Syrian refugee initiative. I know that there are Canadian "trolls" who'll express themselves with vituperation on-line behind the shield of anonymity, and that some hijab-wearing women in Canada have experienced overt discrimination. After Paris, a mosque was torched in a small Ontario city: shameful. However, the amount required to rebuild it was donated within 48 hours by local people and a huge surplus beyond that given in turn to other charitable needs.
But: welcoming Syrian refugees is still the right thing to do. The vast majority of Canadians agree. Prime Minister Trudeau is appealing to our "better angels" and his "approval rating" has soared even above the polling after his October election victory . . .
It's a good time of the year for the better angels to come forward, truly.
There was no room for them at the inn? There's room here.
And what a universal appeal that Bethlehem story has: transcending religions and centuries.
It does speak to what's most deeply human in all of us.