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Letters, week of Sept. 17

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Refugee crisis not a partisan issue

Sir: A drowned boy on a beach has focused the world’s attention on the Syrian refugee crisis. In Canada it is an election campaign issue. Did we do enough to help the boy’s family to settle in Canada? Are we taking enough refugees? Can we afford the cost?

We should look to past crises: the Irish potato famine, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Vietnamese boat people. Compassion shown by past Prime Ministers was supported by Canadians. It built a more prosperous country that thrives because of the diversity of its citizens.

Premiers of provinces and mayors of cities are calling on Canada to facilitate their efforts to accept more Syrian refugees. Similarly individuals, churches and other groups are offering to privately sponsor refugees, and meeting a wall of bureaucratic hurdles.

This should not be a partisan issue. Regardless of party affiliation, the majority of Canadians want to continue our welcoming tradition. Five months ago Justin Trudeau set a target of accepting 25,000 directly sponsored refugees in addition to those that would be sponsored privately. Is his target the right one? Is it high enough? To respond quickly to the crisis he called on his opponents to work together and not wait for the election result. Mr. Mulcair responded positively. Mr. Harper rejected the idea.

Some fear refugees will commit terrorist acts. Retired general and former Defence Chief Rick Hillier says this danger can be minimized with ground-screening. Can the danger be eliminated completely? Of course not. But we should not let exaggerated fear keep us from helping our neighbours.

A recent Globe and Mail editorial titled “The World Needs More Canada” quoted from the Talmud: “whoever saves a life saves the world,” and the Koran: “whoso gives life to a soul, it shall be as if he had given life to mankind altogether.”

Christian or not, we know Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Whether or not we espouse the beliefs of any religion, our tradition is one of helping others.

Do not be discouraged by the magnitude of the crisis; each life saved is important.

Vernon Chiles

Sarnia

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Help refugees, but screen first

Sir: Two letters were published in The Journal recently, dealing with immigration.

One (Ms. DeGroot) questioned why we do not open our borders for migrants from Syria and Iraq, while the other (Mr. Clarkson) complained those migrants will require a lot of welfare, which we can hardly afford.

As a onetime refugee (Hungary, 1956) I feel that I have to add a third point to the issue.

Being a refugee, my passage from Vienna was paid for by the Canadian government and some NGOs, and after arriving to Toronto I was on public assistance for four or five months (unable to speak English, it was difficult to get a job).

But since then I have been a taxpaying citizen, so I believe that I paid back several times the received assistance.

There were of course a few “bad apples” who ended up as welfare chisellers or even criminals, but so are some “regular” immigrants or born Canadians.

I expect that the Syrians and Iraqis will similarly integrate.

But there is another angle to the current problem. ISIS is not stupid: they realize that they have a good thing going and “salted” the refugee stream with their agents.

We have to be aware of the distinct possibility of terrorism, espionage and other “fifth column” activities. Before opening the door to the migrants they should be thoroughly screened.

John Timar

Bright’s Grove

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Liberals have promised to support unions

Sir: have lived and worked in this community all my life. I have devoted countless hours of time and energy to promote the well-being of all members of Sarnia-Lambton.

How sad it was for me to discover that I and many of my friends and associates are now on the hit list of Stephen Harper.

Bill C-377 specifically imposes heavy financial reporting obligations upon unions, while making no such requirement of any employer organizations or well-funded, right wing think tanks.

In fact, this act of contempt with specific focus on unions in Bill C-377 represents real intimidation towards Canadian workers. Intimidation not because of the tax credit for union dues, but because Mr. Harper clearly does not like unions or little guys like me.

All we seek are safe working conditions and fair wages in a fair society, and this legislation is the price we are being forced to pay for seeking fairness.

Conservative Senators ignored the ruling of their own speaker and Senate protocols to push this bill through at the last minute before an election call.

Justin Trudeau worked diligently with the Labour organizations that tried to get the Senate to defeat the Bill, or let it die as Parliament recessed. Thomas Mulcair declined to help. He was happy to just let it be.

Trudeau promised in a June 30 press release he will “repeal this deeply ideologic and highly partisan legislation. It serves no demonstrable public good or necessary policy objective. As Liberals, it is our fundamental belief that unions have, and continue to play, an integral role in the growth and strength of the middle class in this country. We will work in partnership with Canadian workers to ensure they have a real and fair chance at success.”

I’m in good company on Harper’s Hit List – women, scientists, climate change believers – I could go on. And yes, I know, I’ll probably get audited for writing this letter.

Fearing reprisal for being a citizen who publicly dissents in any way from the government’s way is a long way from the Canada I once knew.

Raymond Fillion

Retired union member

Sarnia

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A couple of kudos

Sir: I was pleased to see Nathan Colquhoun’s column in the Sept. 3 edition of The Sarnia Journal, about Wawanosh Enterprises.

He explains the purpose of the organization so well.

In my mind, this could be compared to the thousands of hours volunteers give to the community. I have given a lot of time to organizations and felt well paid in the satisfaction of a job well done.

Also, my compliments for the historical Then and Now edition of Aug. 27. As a student and writer of local history I found it informative and entertaining.

I intend to keep it as a reference source.

John Drage

Sarnia

 

 

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