In contemplating the ideal profile for those that our group will sponsor, I think many of us wonder whether we will be able to relate to the refugees that we bring to Canada. In many cases the people will be coming from an environment and a culture that is very different from our own. What’s more, what if the refugees have a set of values or a world view that is antithetical to our own values and the values of the Canadian community where we will be helping them to settle.
Our group considers the question of whether we should have some kind of criteria for deciding which refugees we will go after. Or if we should avoid certain groups because they may be too patriarchical or hold doctrinaire religious views. In thinking about this topic I remembered Ontario’s slogan from the 70’s
“a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari, ari, ari, o”.
Granted, not the most inspiring motto. But for me it represented the view that what we had here was a cultural mosaic which didn’t demand that one change to fit in and belong here. All are welcome. What Ontario offered its residents was simply a place of opportunity and the freedom to be who you are. And to come as you are.
Paul M., who joined us at this meeting as someone who has led groups who have already settled several groups of refugees, mentioned that in undertaking this project we can expect that it will be a learning experience for us Canadians. Possibly an emotional journey and an opportunity for growth for each of us.
And it made me think that while we are interacting with these people, people who on the surface appear very different from ourselves, while we help them to sort out their children’s schooling or their family doctor etc., that we will probably discover the shared humanity that lies within us and which will help both sides to transcend all the outward differences that before separated us and seemed so big.