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Medisina at Politika by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan  

A test of Canada’s humanitarian greatness

by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan

So proud was I to hear the news that the 25 thousandth Syrian refugee arrived in Montreal last Saturday February 27 that I decided to put into print through this column my thoughts on the subject. I trust you share my sense of joy and gratitude on this happy occasion. It is not often that citizens and their country are presented with the privilege to exercise their duty in the service of humanity during trying times.

We are in difficult times, indeed, for in the world and in North America, Canada included, we have heard voices against immigrants and even refugees. We had read news and seen TV broadcasts of actual hostility and violence. And it becomes painfully sad to hear when similar voices of resistance or reluctance are heard coming from some former immigrants and their descendants. Fortunately, these voices and hostilities are few and far between. Nonetheless, I grant that those whose concerns were due to their perception of threats to our security have honest reasons for apprehension. That is why the Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, has assured Canadians that all needed screening measures have been taken diligently.

Lest we forget, let us all be reminded that immigrants leave the familiarity of their countries of birth in search of a new and better life. Refugees leave their countries to settle anywhere just to escape death – now a daily reality in the Syrian civil war. Let us also remember that both immigrants and refugees have helped build our Canada, which is now the “envy of the world.” Once in the late ‘70s during the crisis in Vietnam, I chaired the Refuge Committee at Christ the King Parish in St. Vital to raise sponsorship funds for some refugee families. We are now all witnesses to their success in business, among other fields of endeavour, thereby contributing to employment and the economy of our community – to mention just one dimension. It was a truly a fulfilling experience to recall.

Let us also take time to thank the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Hon. John McCallum, his fellow cabinet ministers and the rank and file of government officials for their expertise, hard work and dedication to see accomplished the goal that has been set. All of this was done without a taint of partisan politics. In fact, “all evidence points to a committed, careful screening process overseas and a well-prepared integration plan here at home,” observed Ottawa Bureau Chief John Ibbitson for the Globe and Mail. “Instead,” he continued, “everyone involved, from the approximately 500 departmental officials who have worked tirelessly, some of them straight through Christmas, to Minister John McCallum, deserves high praise.”

Truly, it is right and proper we convey our gratitude to our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, for his leadership and his team. Once more Canada has answered the call to serve the cause of humanity. That makes our nation ever great.

Dr. Rey – a retired lung specialist and professor of child health and former Member of Parliament, Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and cabinet minister – serves as a volunteer on the Advisory Council of Immigration Partnership Winnipeg of the Social Planning Council.

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