Information fosters communication

Knowing more about Syrian will help bridge the distance.

In our family, calling someone by their name was inherently easy. Hello Jim, Dave, Gordon, etc. It was not something I had to think about.

Now I am a great-grandmother and our street’s Block Watch Captain. As our community evolves with immigration, I walk the path, smile and maybe bow as I passed someone whom did not respond in English. The other day, the co-captain and I enrolled two new families into our program and was pleased we could communicate in English. But then I thought, “how will I ever remember how to pronounce names I am so unfamiliar with?” They were lovely families and I could embarrass myself or alienate them by incorrectness.

“Hi” always works, but in Block Watch we need to engage our community for our safety. We need more from each other if we are to share common goals.

This got me to thinking about the coming influx of new immigrants to our area and how we can better communicate. I was born in B.C. and have and lived here all my life, even though my father was an immigrant from England. I remember being teased at school that my dad had an accent, which I emphatically denied.

Remembering our experiences helps us to be more tolerant and understanding. When my husband and I travel, we often have to share with our friend to the south that we do not live in igloos and it is not cold all year. Our English cousins cannot believe the vastness of Canada and always hope to see a grizzly when they come over. We had a skunk in our neighbourhood when they visited us, which was completely foreign to them as they don’t have these critters there. This is a small item which goes to show people from different regions of the world have different experiences.

While we travel in Canada and the U.S. and sometimes England, we know so little about Syria and the surrounding countries. I’m probably not alone on this issue and if you ask other Surrey residents, I doubt they know either.

If our goal is to welcome Syrian newcomers, we need understanding and an appreciation of what is important to all of us. Knowing more about what their homeland was like before the wars, their commodities, customs, cultures and areas of interest might help open the communication about what we have in common.

Gail Wilson, Surrey

 

Are robust security screening processes in place at schools?

I immigrated with my family to this beautiful land in 2006 under the skilled immigration category. What was behind my decision to immigrate, leaving behind lots in Sri Lanka, my country of birth, was the ruthless civil war we had for more than 30 years, which robbed childhoods of many – including mine.

I experienced the horror of war when a terrorist organization operated in Sri Lanka during the time blew up the central bank building in 1996, killing and injuring scores of workers, pedestrians, roadside sellers, drivers and others. It was one of the most powerful bomb blasts in the capital of Sri Lanka, which killed a few of my friends in the adjacent building to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka the prime target, where I was at work and managed to escape with minor injuries. I believe Lady Luck was on my side at a crucial juncture.

We never had post-traumatic care/consultation widely available in our country at that time, and those who were exposed to such horrendous war-like experiences suffered alone without any help. I was one of them.

I recollect waking up at night afraid, shaken by the sound of shutting doors, slamming brakes, etc. for many years, which many of our Canadian friends have thankfully not experienced.

The recent gruesome attacks in Paris and Beirut reminded me of the agony that I went through. I stayed glued to local TV stations, which discussed various potential permutations and combinations of checks and balances to be in place in our land to avoid such incidents, such as screening refugees.

However, I have not seen/read anyone discussing the potential avenue that so-called extremists could easily explore, such as sending their cadres impersonating as international students to our universities to create mayhem in crowded school premises.

I have questions at the back of my mind, some of which I append below for qualified security experts to ponder.

1. Do we have a robust security screening process currently in place for foreign students, particularly coming from high-risk countries?

2. If affirmative, is it a one-off exercise or is it done on an annual basis, particularly in cases where students take semester breaks and return?

3. Do we keep track of any suspicious students on records if (1) is in place?

4. If there is no process as discussed in (1) above, whose responsibility will it be to implement, universities or provincial/federal governments? And how soon will we implement such a mechanism?

Reshan Wickramasinghe

Fleetwood

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