Do you come from away?

Seaway News - - Opinion - NICK SEEBRUCH ni­cholas.seebruch@tc.tc

On my re­cent week­end va­ca­tion in New York City, I took in an off-broad­way pro­duc­tion of Come from Away at the Ger­ald Schoen­feld theatre. For those not fa­mil­iar with the live mu­si­cal, it is about the small New­found­land town of Gan­der, and how their town of 7,000 peo­ple wel­comed 7,000 refugees from all- over the world on 9/11.

On 9/11 when the U.S. Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion closed North Amer­i­can airspace after the at­tacks in Washington, Penn­syl­va­nia and New York ev­ery plan in the sky in the area landed at the air­port in Gan­der, NFLD.

Watch­ing how that town re­acted to wel­com­ing strangers they did not know, in a si­t­u­a­tion that might be dan­ger­ous, could not help but re­mind me of our own re­cent si­t­u­a­tion in Corn­wall with asy­lum seek­ers.

Last year, I wrote a col­umn about the 240 asy­lum seek­ers that were housed for a lit­tle over a week at the Nav Cen­tre. In that col­umn I wrote that those who were crim­i­nals or bad ac­tors would be fil­tered out by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and that those who truly needed help, would get it and that all we had to do as hosts, was to show them the best of Canada.

A lit­tle un­der a year later, we’ve found out that the Nav Cen­tre in Corn­wall again could play host to as many as 500 asy­lum seek­ers.

If they come at all, any asy­lum seek­ers who come to Corn­wall have al­ready been deemed el­i­gi­ble for refugee sta­tus by the Cana­dian Bor­der Ser­vice Agency (CBSA). This means that they have been in­ter­viewed by the CBSA, that their photos and fin­ger­prints have been taken and that they have had health, se­cu­rity and crim­i­nal back­ground checks.

Ad­di­tion­ally, not all, or pos­si­bly any, of the asy­lum seek­ers who might stay in Corn­wall would have crossed il­le­gally. So far this year, 21,596 asy­lum seek­ers have crossed into Canada ac­cord­ing to Im­mi­gra­tion, Refugees and Cit­i­zen­ship Canada. Of that to­tal, 56 per­cent crossed over at a le­gal port of en­try.

If Corn­wall hosts asy­lum seek­ers again this year, they will have al­ready gone through ex­ten­sive vet­ting by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and will face more screen­ing be­fore they are ac­cepted.

Like Gan­der in 2001, Corn­wall’s task is to serve as host and to show the best of our com­mu­nity and our coun­try to th­ese peo­ple who are afraid and look­ing to set­tle a bet­ter life.

On 9/11 a com­mu­nity of 7,000 wel­comed an­other 7,000 into their com­mu­nity, schools, and homes. They gave them food, drink, and a friendly ear to help put them at ease. They held par­ties at their le­gion for the so- called “Plane Peo­ple” and com­mu­nity BBQ’S. Corn­wall could do at least that much, and if any of those asy­lum seek­ers are wel­comed into Canada, maybe we’ll be lucky enough that they call Corn­wall their home.

If a com­mu­nity like Gan­der can han­dle dou­bling its pop­u­la­tion overnight, then Corn­wall can surely han­dle play­ing host to a mere 500 asy­lum seek­ers.

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