The riots in Pakistan in 1964 and 65, culminating in the second Indo-Pakistan war, sent 600,000 hungry refugees streaming across the Delhi plains into the heart of an India that at the time couldn't even feed itself. By the time they reached the outskirts of Delhi they were literally starving to death. My mother, with the innocence of all new western expats, loaded two sacks of rice and all her kids into the car and trundled out to the refugee camp to do what she could.
We've all seen pictures of the famished in equatorial Africa: listless skeletons sunk into belly-distended fly-encrusted apathy, waiting with disinterest for death to take its final tribute. But famines in real life aren't like that. Not until the very last stages, just before death.
I was too young to fully understand the sights I saw that day, but I remember some instants vividly. Sacks of rice ripped apart like hunks of meat thrown to piranhas, the strongest running away with shirtfuls, the weakest fighting for handfuls of dirt with a few grains of rice. Frantic panicked eyes, hundreds of them. Empty dugs through ragged cloth pressed against a window, bone-thin hands reaching over it, tearing, clawing, pleading for something, anything, that would keep them alive one more week. Anger, saliva, bleeding gums, oozing sores, an infant shoved halfway through the window in a surreal bid to sell it. I remember my mother's shocked white face and the look of scorn on the faces of the Gurkha soldiers who escorted us to safety.
Thousands more streamed into the camp the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, for weeks. Most died. We never went back.
There are two points I want to pull out of the anecdote above. First, the state of the folks I described above is qualitatively different from the state of the refugees flooding into Europe today. None of them are starving and only about 2,500 of them are directly fleeing violence from Syria itself (note the Syrian land area connected to the Mediterranean Sea).
Most of the rest are arriving from Turkey, where they have been housed under UNHCR auspices and funding. They don't face danger, or hunger, or persecution in Turkey. In their present condition they don't qualify even under the very loose UN definition of refugees. They left Syria as bona fide refugees, but they are leaving Turkey as economic migrants because they believe a better life awaits them in the west.
The second point is that some Canadian political parties are playing politics with the lives of these migrants, and playing to a susceptible audience of compassionate Canadians. They have built a narrative of half-truths and lies, telling us that the current government has done nothing, will do nothing, and doesn't care. Outside of politics it would be considered slander, but within the context of an election it seems to be fair game. So let's look at some hard facts:
A) This is not a new crisis. It has been going on for almost a decade and became a headliner in the Canadian press only because of a tragic photo of a dead toddler on a beach that had very little to do with Canada at all. It remains in the headlines only because it feeds the propaganda machine of the Liberals and NDP.
B) The NDP and Liberals, in a disgusting display of cynicism, are jumping on the bandwagon of an open-door policy they would never, could never, institute themselves if they were in power. An unchecked flood of refugees would significantly strain our social fabric and financial resources, given the settlement costs and tendency for large numbers of immigrants to self-ghettoize in urban areas.
C) There are serious security concerns that Islamists are coming over with the migrants, concerns scoffed at by the Liberals and NDP as "fear mongering" even as ISIS boasts that it is exporting terrorists and Islamists are being intercepted in Europe. The opposition parties have the luxury to scoff, but the Prime Minister of this country is under oath to protect his or her citizens first and foremost, always and everywhere. Full stop. He or she doesn't have the luxury of hoping for the best.
D) In spite of significant social and financial strain, Canada has taken in 25,000 refugees and is planning to take 20,000 more screened refugees. That puts it among the highest intake nations in the developed world. But even if we could, taking more and more refugees is not the answer. There are 15 million refugees all told and we can't take them all. Fifteen. Million. Opening our doors until we implode as a country is not the answer.
The root cause of this crisis is ISIS and the horrors it is inflicting on the residents of Syria and Iraq. One doesn't fix a water main by bringing mops and pails, and we won't stop the flow of refugees by bringing blankets and medical care. If we do that without addressing the source, the Islamic State will simply continue to churn out more refugees. And it's on this subject that the truly despicable cynicism and irresponsibility of the Liberals and the NDP parades itself, because at the same time as they cry crocodile tears over the migrants, they refuse to deal with the root cause itself. As painful as it will be, at some point we're going to have to use military means to stop this seventh century barbarism if we plan to stop the flow of migrants into the west.
Otherwise we're just bringing a couple sacks of rice.
— Scott Anderson is a Vernon City Councillor, freelance writer, business owner and a bunch of other stuff. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Philosophy, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.