LETTER: Action by example on refugees

In 1926, Canada accepted me, a refugee from the home of civil war in USSR

In 1926, Canada accepted me, a refugee from the home of civil war in USSR. I became a citizen of Canada in 1932 and I am forever grateful for the freedom and opportunities that have blessed me in this great land.

Approximately 20 years ago, when the Balkan countries suffered “ethnic cleansing,” my family and number of friends, assisted by the Mennonite Central Committee, sponsored two refugee families – four adults and four children. We enrolled them in English classes, rented housing, and got them jobs. One of the fathers was an aircraft designer, his wife was a lawyer. The father of the other family was a production inspector of a factory, his wife was a travel agent.

These adults gladly accepted jobs in Abbotsford’s poultry industry. Today these families are prosperous, grateful citizens residing in Burnaby, and have become our dear friends.

The joy we experienced in helping these families far outweighs the risks we took and sacrifice of our convenience, time, money, and energy. Our friends and my wife and I are pensioners of modest means, but to experience how these two families, traumatized by war and atrocities, have blossomed into confident, successful Canadian citizens has enriched our lives.

Therefore, I am appealing to our Canadian leaders to stop the rhetoric and lead by example: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie have a huge mansion provided them by taxpayers. They have the resource to welcome a number of refugee families and meet their needs for a year. The same is true for Premier Clark as she enjoys the fat cheque she just received from the Liberal Party. Also each one of our elected parliamentarians and legislators certainly have the means to sponsor a refugee family – to provide them with the dignity of housing, work, and friendship.

We taxpayers are not very happy that many refugees still live in expensive hotels, receive no ESL learning, and are not permitted to work. We taxpayers have had enough “talk” – we want action by example.

John Wittenberg