Fo­cus pas­sion, out­rage to im­prove Canada first

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - OPINION - CRAIG and MARC KIELBURGER Craig and Marc Kielburger are the co-founders of the WE move­ment, which in­cludes WE Char­ity, ME to WE So­cial En­ter­prise and WE Day. For more dis­patches from WE, check out WE Sto­ries.

Im­mi­grant chil­dren peer out of barred win­dows in a build­ing sur­rounded by ra­zor wire. This isn’t Texas, it’s Laval, Que.

Cana­di­ans are ap­palled at sto­ries of mi­grant chil­dren torn from their par­ents in the United States, ask­ing our­selves what to do from up north. With no vote to lever­age, we don’t have much in­flu­ence over Amer­i­can pol­i­cy­mak­ers. But we can look in the mir­ror, and rec­og­nize Canada isn’t blame­less.

The scale is vastly dif­fer­ent — roughly 150 mi­grant chil­dren are de­tained each year in Canada ver­sus the thou­sands now held in the U.S. — but the prob­lem is the same. Univer­sity of Toronto re­searchers found con­di­tions in Cana­dian im­mi­grant de­ten­tion cen­tres can lead to se­ri­ous trauma for chil­dren.

Cana­di­ans can and should con­tinue to speak out and do­nate to is­sues south of the bor­der. At the same time, we can get our own house in or­der, spon­sor­ing refugee fam­i­lies and ad­vo­cat­ing for bet­ter treat­ment of asy­lum seek­ers.

Take the phrase “think glob­ally, act lo­cally” and use it lit­er­ally. It even ap­plies to your daily news con­sump­tion. Every in­fu­ri­at­ing in­ter­na­tional head­line is a chance to take on a Cana­dian is­sue.

Fam­i­lies are be­ing torn apart. More First Na­tions chil­dren are re­moved from their homes and placed in fos­ter care to­day than were taken at the height of the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem. Chronic un­der­fund­ing of wel­fare ser­vices for In­dige­nous re­gions means so­cial work­ers can’t find so­lu­tions that keep chil­dren with their fam­i­lies.

You can make a do­na­tion to groups like the First Na­tions Child and Fam­ily Car­ing So­ci­ety, or sup­port In­dige­nous com­mu­nity-based ser­vices in your area. Hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S. and it seems that news about an­other white su­prem­a­cist rally or an­other un­armed black youth gunned down by po­lice make daily head­lines. Cana­di­ans tend to down­play racist in­ci­dents in our coun­try by favourably (and smugly) com­par­ing our­selves to our U.S. neigh­bours.

Yet, ar­son­ists at­tacked a mosque in Ed­mon­ton in June. A re­cent re­port found ex­ten­sive racism against black city em­ploy­ees in Hal­i­fax. And there are on­go­ing com­plaints of racial pro­fil­ing by po­lice forces across the coun­try.

Af­ter sign­ing that pe­ti­tion for po­lice bias train­ing, take ac­tion against your own un­con­scious bi­ases. Find a group that of­fers anti-op­pres­sion train­ing, or try some of the many bias aware­ness-raising ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able on­line.

In other dis­turb­ing global news, Canada is a key player. More than 5,000 chil­dren have been killed or in­jured and mil­lions more face star­va­tion in Ye­men’s civil war. Canada has sold more than

$200 mil­lion in mil­i­tary gear to Saudi Ara­bia, one of the ma­jor com­bat­ants in Ye­men. Cana­dian-made sniper ri­fles were spot­ted in the hands of the war­ring par­ties.

Tell your MP that you ex­pect Canada to up­hold in­ter­na­tional law, pro­hibit­ing arms sales to hu­man rights abusers. And put your money where your mouth is. Find out if your in­vest­ment or pen­sion port­fo­lio in­cludes arms man­u­fac­tur­ers, and di­vest them.

When we raise global is­sues, we’re of­ten chas­tised for ig­nor­ing prob­lems on our doorstep. But they’re not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive, and there’s of­ten a di­rect con­nec­tion. Let your pas­sion for mak­ing a bet­ter world lead you back to mak­ing a bet­ter Canada.

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