Focus passion, outrage to improve Canada first
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.