Social media, in case you haven’t yet noticed, has erupted in uncommon bickering over whether Canada should be taking in 25,000 Syrian refugees.
Lightning rod issues have a tendency to attract the best and worst in us, be it reasoned debate or ill-informed, shallow, name-calling and just, well, just stupid comments.
No matter where you land on this deeply polarizing issue – be it that Canada is morally beholden to accept the refugees, or that we are foolishly courting danger by welcoming them in – there are two certainties that must be kept in mind.
The first being, they are coming. The newly elected federal government has decided to make it so, and make it so, it will.
Secondly, and most importantly, we need to remember that these refugees are flesh and blood people, just like even the most self-righteous amongst us on either side of the debate. And as such, they must be afforded every dignity as members of the human family. They are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Not statistics, and certainly not “Them.”
A civilized society, that takes pride in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, can do no less.
The spotlight, then, is on the federal government to make sure these refugees, once they arrive, are properly supported with the same care in which all Canadians are governed. The onus is also on the media to hold the government true to this task in the months and years to come.
The Victorian novelist George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans) wrote that “The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the wider vision.”
She wrote this well over a century ago, but her words still apply today.
Are we wrong or right in welcoming the Syrian refugees into our fold? History will tell.
In the meantime, how we choose to conduct ourselves as individuals, in response, is everything.