A world without borders

The eyes of Canada are suddenly on two places that none of us had ever heard of before: Emerson, Manitoba, and Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec. Both have become border crossings for refugees on foot from Somali, Turkey and elsewhere. Because of various laws and treaties nothing can be done to halt the flow. Refugees are detained, will eventually be vetted, and may or may not be allowed to stay.

There was much national tongue-clucking in Canada last year about how some countries in Europe bridled at the flow of Syrian migrants. Even though more than a million were involved – compared with our paltry few hundred – our true mettle is now being tested. Already there are calls for changing the rules so we can turn away these strangers in our midst.

I hope that does not happen. After all, on March 5, 1910, no one in Canada was expecting my father, then three years old, when he got off the Empress of Britain at Saint John, N.B. with his parents and five siblings. As the years passed, my father forgot about the fact that he was born in England and focussed instead on his Scottish roots. Last summer my partner and I, and other members of family, walked the land where in 1820 my great-great-grandfather was a tenant farmer near Newton Stewart, in southwest Scotland.

Yes, my father played sentimental Harry Lauder songs and dragged me as a lad to the Fergus Highland Games, but he always said that the best thing that ever happened to him was coming to Canada. Years from now I trust the progeny of those folks struggling through snow-filled fields will say the same.

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