COLUMN: The generosity we are known for must prevail

The outpouring of humanitarian aid and care for Syrian refugees across the nation is both heartwarming and, to some degree, disconcerting.

On the Other Hand by Mark Rushton

The outpouring of humanitarian aid and care for Syrian refugees across the nation is both heartwarming and, to some degree, disconcerting.

I mention the latter only because we will be facing a housing and employment conundrum for so many people, all at once.

It is all well and good to provide government-assisted accommodation funding for individuals and families, but the amounts are equivalent to social assistance, and anyone already receiving that will clearly tell you $375 a month ($785 for families) doesn’t go very far in the Lower Mainland housing market.

That said, there is a huge push for people to ‘donate’ a bedroom or vacant basement suite to assist refugee resettlement, but the number of those coming here in the next couple of months – 3,000 by year’s end – is and will be somewhat overwhelming.

Additionally, among that number are many children, with Surrey alone expecting approximately 500 kids to enter its schools. Like Abbotsford, Surrey is one of the few school districts in the province that is growing, and already facing challenges to find classrooms.

Vancouver, conversely, has a reported 19 schools facing closure for lack of students, thus could easily accommodate a large influx of children. On the other hand, with the real estate market as it is, Vancouver appears to have little to no ability to provide housing for the families of those children.

An even-greater challenge in this economy, will be to find jobs that will take willing and able-bodied refugees off social assistance. Only then will they be able to proudly and fully integrate into our society and their new home.

I recall as a kid the Hungarian refugee “crisis” and the little village where I grew up becoming home to at least one family. Their kids went to school with me, and the boy who was my age eventually went on to great success, achieving a doctorate among other accomplishments.

The tragedy that is unfolding daily in Syria and throughout the Middle East is heart-breaking. Families willing to endure deprivation and possible death to escape the civil war carnage in their homeland in search of a better place for themselves and their children is something few in the comfort of this country can barely comprehend.

We do, however, understand the tragedy and heart-wrenching horror of those who are trying to escape, and of those who sadly have died in their quest for freedom from war and anarchy. More than a million Syrians are in need of resettlement in the next year alone, and Canada has committed to doing its part.

So reach out we must, and we will. The generosity of our community and our province will prevail; homes will be found, kids will be educated and somewhere along the line, jobs will be created.

In the meantime, you can find out how to help resolve this crying need by going on-line to issbc.org/refugee-crisis or by email at refugee.crisis@issbc.org

Homes, money, helping out . . . there is a need for anything and everything.

Over the years and generations, Canadians have helped many find a new and rewarding life in this nation of generosity. Let’s not falter on providing the same welcome to those fleeing Syria’s turmoil.

markrushton@abbynews.com

 

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