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We are all immigrants

We are all immigrants

I remember well one of the best teaching sessions I ever had with surgical clerks. This session happened many years ago when I was a surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital. As was often the protocol, one of the senior medical students started rounds by presenting a case. I recall that the patient had been admitted with a small bowel obstruction. When reviewing the history and physical, the student made the comment that the history of the present illness was a bit fragmented because the patient “had a language problem.”

I remember my reaction; I stopped the reporting of the case and went around the room, student by student, asking each one of them about their paternal grandfathers. There were eight students in the room. Each student told me a brief story about their grandfather, and then I went around the room and asked each clerk, about the ability of each of their grandfathers to speak in English. As it turned out, none of the eight students’ grandfathers spoke any English. With that, I ended the rounds, reminded the students that we are all immigrants, and I left the room.

I was reminded of this event, over and over again, in the last few weeks as we learned, day after day, of the tragic and unimaginable crisis of the Syrian and other refugees as they tried to seek asylum in European countries. The deaths, the suffering, and the indignation has been nothing short of shameful and catastrophic.

This past week, we were reminded of the gravity of the situation through the words of Pope Francis as he addressed the United States Congress. He commented on the current situation in Syria drawing parallels to immigration to the U.S. from Latin America. His Holiness said: “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”1

And where is Canada?

In essence, we have been admitting a trickle of refugees into Canada, and in very limited numbers. Our Government is reticent to accelerate access to our country claiming concerns over security.

We can, and must, do more. Adelman, Alboim, Molloy and Cappe, in their recent article in The Globe and Mail, call for Canada to accept 50,000 refugees.3 Their article outlines an eight point plan underscoring its feasibility. I am personally convinced that we can accept this number of refugees, perhaps double that number. We are a country of 35,000,000 people. Surely we can absorb and support 100,000 men, women and children, desperately in need of a sanctuary, across this vast and great country.

We have a long history of humanitarianism in this country. It’s a history we should be proud of. We need a strong public outcry to prevent us from looking back at this time in history, in shameful reflection.

If you have any thoughts or comments about this current crisis, comment on the blog, or better yet, please stop by the Macklem House. My door is always open.

Richard

 

  1. http://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/full-text-of-pope-francis-speech-to-congress
  2. https://www.google.ca/search?q=syrian+refugee+crisis&biw=1536&bih=1272&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAmoVChMIpbSx55iYyAIVSwOSCh0MJgc7#imgrc=ePif10xwJMuOlM%3A
  3. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/eight-steps-to-get-more-syrian-refugees-into-canada/article26356841/

J H Coyle

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 15:08

We all have opinions on a variety of subjects – – It is the wise man that knows when to express them and to use the proper forum – – JIM – –

J H Coyle

Andrew Davies

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 15:08

I absolutely agree with you. The Harper government’s policies have been disgraceful, damaging Canada’s international reputation. Minister Chris Alexander (Citizenship & Immigration) is an embarrassment. I heard a CBC radio interview with him last year about the Syrian refugee issue and he persistently avoided answering the questions directly.

By the way, my paternal grandfather was also an immigrant (although he did speak English). He was born in Liverpool, England, and sailed to Canada at the age of fourteen in 1912, one month after the Titanic. He fought in the Canadian army in World War I from 1915 to 1918. He lived his entire life in Canada in Montreal (died in 1988 at the age of ninety). I admired him greatly.

Drew Davies (Meds ’88)

Andrew Davies

Linda Steele Meds 78

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 15:09

My mother is an immigrant, a British war bride. My husband is an immigrant from Australia . (OK, he has an aussie accent but we don’t call it a”language problem”. So you are right. We don’t have to go far back to realize we are all immigrants. Canada is a BIG country and we can surely fit in a lot more people.
Thanks for your blog.
Linda Steele, Meds 78

Linda Steele Meds 78

Dear Linda,

Thanks for telling us a bit about your family’s history, reminding us that for the majority of Canadians, we are here because Canada opened up its arms to our forefathers and foremothers.

reznickr

John Arber, Medes

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 15:10

Dean Reznick. Good for you for speaking up about the refugees. My grandparents came from England, with of course no language concerns. Our church is starting to team with other churches to raise money to sponsor a family. A small but positive step.
Be we’ll and continue to advocate

John Arber, Medes

Rena Rice

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 15:10

Dean Reznick, Rena, a voice from the past, I remember those rounds! Very poignant! Canada took about 60,000 Vietnamese “boat people” back in the 1980s, the bulk of those being sponsored through citizen lead groups. Thirty+ years later we should be able to surpass this for these Syrian refugees, the bulk of them also leaving by “boat”. On another note, unfortunately I’ll miss your address at the Research Day here in Hamilton Oct 2nd. Hope you and your family are well.

Rena Rice

Dear Rena,

It’s so nice to hear from someone who has meant so much to me and my family. I hope all is well with your family.

You are absolutely correct that our history with the Vietnamese “boat people” was a time, in Canada’s past, when we responded magnificently to a global crisis.

I am here at McMaster, enjoying two days as a visiting professor.

All my very best,

Richard

reznickr

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