Editorial: Give refugees every chance

Nanaimo is scheduled to start receiving its first government-sponsored Syrian refugees this week, with 10 families slated to arrive.

It’s life-changing for refugees to come to Canada and to Nanaimo. And their arrival should be exciting for any of us.

Nanaimo is scheduled to start receiving its first government-sponsored Syrian refugees this week, with 10 families slated to arrive.

Already, various agencies are co-ordinating efforts to accept ‘overflow’ refugees from Vancouver, with the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society working with the school district, health authority and the municipality. The multicultural society is trying to connect with landlords with appropriate accommodations, and is also seeking volunteers just to try to offer social support to some of the newcomers.

Some of us in Nanaimo may get the chance to forge some friendships with our newest residents, but either way, it’s an opportunity for us to try to be welcoming.

When we hear of faraway, war-torn countries and refugee camps of unimaginable scale, it’s easy to feel helpless, or worse, disconnected. But beginning this week we can make some small difference. It might come from offering a helping hand or just a handshake, or it might come from reconsidering our attitudes toward others. We in Nanaimo are tolerant and accepting of people of any race, religion and culture, but we can be more so.

Of course we should all look out for our best interests, but looking after ourselves and looking after others aren’t mutually exclusive notions.

As refugees arrive in Nanaimo, they become part of our community, and should receive any of the help and support any of us would expect, and maybe even a little extra special attention, because they’re new to town, after all.

Refugees have experienced upheaval and worse, and now they are coming to Nanaimo, to seek refuge, and a new kind of life. What kind of life will that be? It’s up to them, and it’s up to us.

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