War what is it good for?

You have to wonder what country Stephen Harper grew up in. It couldn’t have been the same Canada I know, the one where political leaders show the way in welcoming desperate refugees fleeing horrific circumstances around the world. Under the Harper government’s heartless rules, it’s almost impossible even to sponsor family members who are under the gun and could make a contribution here. He thinks our F-18s are the only answer in the Middle East. It’s not even clear that our puny effort, along with others, is making any progress by bombing ISIS.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander suspended his re-election efforts yesterday and flew to Ottawa to be briefed. How silly was that? When 200,000 Hungarians fled their home country following the failed revolution of 1956, Immigration Minister Jack Pickersgill recommended to his fellow cabinet ministers in the St. Laurent government that Canada pay the passage of any freedom fighter who wanted to come to Canada. The idea was approved, Pickersgill visited the refugee camps in Austria to spread the word, and 37,000 Hungarians arrived with enthusiasm and skills. When John Diefenbaker took power soon after, he ordered a survey to see how well they were doing. Only a handful were on welfare; the rest were contributing mightily.

In 1972 when despot Ida Amin expelled thousands of Asians from Uganda, Canada again stepped up. Britain took about 27,000 but Canada was second in terms of numbers at 6,000 when more than half a dozen countries opened their doors. Immigration Minister Bryce Mackasey stood on the docks in Montreal to welcome the new arrivals. As was the case with the Hungarians, the Ugandan Asians worked hard and fitted in well.

In the mid-70s Canada began admitting Vietnamese boat people, a few at first, but then a flood. In 1979 two ministers in the Progressive Conservative government of Joe Clark, Flora MacDonald and Ron Atkey, spearheaded the response and brought in more than 50,000 refugees.

We are all immigrants here. No one was expecting my father, who was then three years old, who came by boat to Canada in 1910 with his family. But those were the days, and they lasted a long time, when Canada had a heart and a place for all. Now we turn our backs on dead babies on a beach and say, “War is the answer.” No, war was the cause. We need to keep the peace.

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