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Sorry, Brad Wall. Refugees are welcome in Saskatchewan.

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Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall

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Keep Karl on Parl

Many people are familiar with the reflective lament by Pastor Martin Niemoller: 

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

Even in the aftermath of the absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking events in Paris last week, I feel a sense of responsibility to say something on behalf of the Muslim people who have nothing to do with the violent extremists. I am talking about two groups -- Muslim Canadians and the Syrian refugees who are wandering in search of a better home in which to raise their families.

The first group is composed of moderate Muslims, the ones who live among us, our neighbours, our friends, our students, our co-workers, our allies. And they represent virtually all Muslims living here in Canada. The second group is also composed of moderate Muslims, forced to flee their war-torn country in seriously dire straights. Neither group should be associated with the fanatics who unleashed the terrorist acts on Paris last week.

When I was a child, I remember being puzzled, even sickened, to learn that the notoriously violent terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan called itself Christian. Being a Catholic boy, I wanted no connection at all to the KKK. I could not believe that they were even allowed to call themselves Christians.


This is what I understand all moderate Muslims to want -- a complete disconnect from the fanatics who call themselves ISIS, or Al-Qaeda, or whatever. I support the moderate Muslims in this endeavour.

Unfortunately, our friends on the Right see things differently. Conservative pundits and politicians here in Canada and elsewhere are attempting to foster fear among the masses linking the terrorism inflicted upon innocent Parisians to the plight of the refugees. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced that he would consider closing all mosques in the U.S.

The premier of the province where I live, Saskatchewan's Brad Wall, announced to the media that he wants the newly elected federal Liberal government to suspend its plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada. I acknowledge the premier's valid concerns for the safety of the people of Saskatchewan, but his suggestion is wrong-headed. As former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy remarked, Premier Wall is way out of his depth here, his obvious lack of experience with vetting refugees clear to most. Moreover, invoking fear among citizens is not going to foster understanding and compassion for the Muslims living in Saskatchewan or across Canada. In fact, it will lead to the opposite.

Since the terror in Paris last week, a mosque was torched in Ontario, and a Muslim woman was attacked in Toronto. Muslims in Alberta and other parts of the western world are expressing fear for their safety. They need our help to protect them from those who are expressing violent revenge for these acts of terrorism, acts of which they had absolutely no part. It is inconceivable that innocent Christians would be made to suffer because of KKK acts of terrorism. It should be the same with innocent Muslims. All of us should reach out to our Muslim neighbours who have lived here for years and make them feel welcome, safe, and appreciated. It's not about tolerance -- it's about acceptance and a willingness to help.

I do not know why there are so many refugees leaving Syria now. Could it be the brutal civil war that has been raging there for almost five years between the Assad regime and rebel forces? Might this latest massive wave of homeless people wandering across Europe have anything to do with the constant bombing of their country by American, British, French and Russian planes? Might it be the proximity to ISIS? There are frequent reports stating that Climate Change is making parts of the Middle East uninhabitable. Might this be at least part of their reasoning to leave their homes?

Let's do our part and accept a reasonable number of refugees. Our political leaders must reassure the public that the vetting process for each refugee is as strong as possible. After all, the Syrian refugees are in a desperate state. Surely we can look into our hearts and show them compassion. They deserve it. This planet is their home as much as it is anyone else's.

Fortunately, Saskatchewan's premier seems to be a lone wolf crying out in some fear-filled place. Most premiers are expressing the exact opposite. And so far Prime Minister Trudeau is, as well. These political leaders seem to be guided by their higher selves. The rest of us would do well to do the same. We should support Canadian Muslims and the desperate refugees of Syria. A tweet I saw today said it best: "Let's not be mistaken -- The people seeking refuge are not the barbarians; they are fleeing the barbarians."

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Keep Karl on Parl

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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