Why Poor & Homeless People Should Welcome The Refugees


Image description: Graffiti on a white wall in black letters that reads REFUGEES WELCOME!

Over the last few weeks, the OCAP office has taken a lot of calls from people living in poverty who question whether refugees should be allowed into Canada when so many are experiencing homelessness and hard times. An expression we keep hearing is that 'we should take care of our own first'. This is our response to such ideas and to those who want us to blame the refugees rather than look at the real reasons why there is poverty and homelessness.

Canada has, of course, been shaped by immigration and the history of the people who have come here is hardly a picture of easy times and luxurious treatment. Those fleeing persecution and poverty have always experienced discrimination and super exploitation. At the same time, immigrants have always faced the lie that they were somehow 'queue jumpers' enjoying special treatment. Refugees coming here today from Syria and other countries face the same slanders. Lots of hateful and false claims of refugees getting special treatment are all over the internet. One widely circulated offering, for example, suggested that refugees are provided with $2,470 per month when this figure included a one time start up payment and presented it as monthly payment. Those who are privately sponsored, moreover, don't get government assistance. The free ride for the refugees is a racist myth you should take with a whole salt mine.

If we look at why there is a refugee crisis at the present time, the obvious fact leaps out at us that people are fleeing the devastation and dislocation of their countries that has been caused by western exploitation and military attacks in which those with the power and money in Canada have played a major role. 75% of the world's brutal and exploiting mining companies have their headquarters in this Country and over 60% of mining capital is raised on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The war in Syria and the wider crisis in the Middle East was caused by western invasion and the Trudeau Government continues to drop bombs in Syria and Iraq that drive people from their devastated communities in an effort to survive.

Take care of our own? Refugees fleeing war and poverty are 'our own' and they have the same enemies as poor and homeless people already in Canada. Those enemies are the bankers, capitalists and their enablers in government who have imposed austerity here and war abroad, who build an oversupply of luxury housing while the homeless sleep on the streets and who demand further cutbacks to social programs to force people to scramble for the lowest paying jobs on offer. Do you really think that, if no refugees came to Canada, then the governments that refuse to build social housing,while they give away billions in tax breaks for the rich, would be any more likely to give a damn about poverty and homelessness?

Canada was created on the stolen land of the indigenous peoples. They are really the only ones with any right to decide who is and who isn't welcome here but we'd like to offer a suggestion on this matter. If the borders were opened to all those who want to escape the devastation and misery that have been inflicted on their countries and, at the same time, we took the corporate executives, bankers, polluters, developers and government ministers and set them adrift in a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, we could build together a society that was free of poverty, racism and exploitation. Open the borders, welcome the refugees and fight those responsible for poverty, war and the refugee crisis.