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Migrant. What comes to mind at the sight of that word?

by The Concordian September 9, 2015

This Saturday Montrealers took to the streets. Not unusual in itself, but this time the focus of the march was not for the self-interest of Montrealers but in the name of the nameless overseas migrants and spurred by the shocking photos of a drowned Syrian toddler’s corpse on the shores of a beach in Turkey.

Google defines the word “migrant” as a migratory animal, a creature that travels from one place to another and back again. Migrant workers might also come to mind—workers who move to more lucrative economic environments in order to send money back to their families; think of Filipino and Bangladeshi construction workers who have been building Dubai for the last decade.

What does not come directly to mind is the sight that has been inescapable over the summer: news coverage of Europe’s “migrant crisis.”

The situation is unequivocally a crisis, that is certain. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghanis are fleeing their homes as well as the camps established to temporarily house them in neighbouring countries.

It’s easy to forget the civil war in Syria began in 2011, and with the rapid expansion of ISIS into the power vacuum, the region has witnessed and been subjected to startling horrors.

The families sleeping in Hungary’s train stations are not migrants, they are desperate refugees. This distinction is essential in developing a moral framework for dealing with the crisis.

Canada isn’t doing enough. It’s not that we’re doing nothing, but the scale of the crisis demands an appropriately scaled response. It also deserves a nonpartisan response.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau recently reached out to the Prime Minister and NDP leader Tom Mulcair calling for a meeting to discuss the crisis and Canada’s response to it. One can only hope that the leaders will not use the situation as an opportunity for political posturing, but for real action in the interest of real people in need.

As of yet, Trudeau has received a chilly response. According to the CBC, Stephen Harper has called the request “partisan games” and Mulcair, although he’s open to the meeting, would rather only speak with the Prime Minister, “because he is the one who can act.”

Perhaps Trudeau is making a clever political ploy, but we’ll have to wait and see. Right now we need leaders to act, not in their self-interest but in the interest of others—the families fleeing the dangers of civil war and the terror of ISIS.

The Conservatives favour bombing runs and the opposition parties prefer a humanitarian aid strategy. The difficult truth is that both approaches, in isolation, cannot solve the problem. Bombs don’t feed hungry refugees or wipe away tears, and warm meals and blankets will not stop ISIS from destroying and enslaving.

No party is completely right in its approach, but those refugees are absolutely and inalienably deserving of our help.

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