By Htay Tint, Blog Writer
Justin Trudeau addressed newly arrived Syrian refugees in 2016: “First of all, thank you for being here. And thank you for the gorgeous smiles I see. This is a wonderful night where we get to show not just a planeload of new Canadians what Canada is all about, we get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations”. This is to say, we are Canadians. Canadians are often self-identified as offering helping hands to ones who need it the most, unprejudiced with kindness and generosity. Canadians have prided themselves in the world by doing some good work with Syrian refugee resettlement.
Indeed, the Government of Canada has made a point of actively supporting Syrian refugee resettlement in the past year. The idea of the Ottawa Exemption for Syrian refugees on their loan repayment is splendid. It is a necessary and an essential removal of the most crucial impediment to Syrian refugees’ success in settling into a wider Canadian society and culture.
To this end, inasmuch as I consider myself a Canadian, I asked myself a question : Are we ignoring other groups in need? ARE WE BEING FAIR AND JUST?
There are more than 500,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Myanmar and thousands of refugees have fled the country, most of them are different ethnicities from within Myanmar, such as Karen, Karenni, Shan, Tavoyan, and Mon. Nearly all of them face harsh civil wars between the Myanmar military and the ethnic rebellion groups which plunders their lives in their own land.
Nearly all of the IDPs and the refugees have been forced to flee their homes in Myanmar where they face violence and persecution at the hands of the Burmese military, including torture, imprisonment, and village burning.
Most Burmese refugees cannot speak English, and only some of them have had a high school education. Nearly all of them have no work experience in modern society. One Burmese refugee put the reality of many IDPs and refugees in context: “You don’t know anything about how to live in a house [because] you’ve lived in a hut”. Even turning on a tap or microwave and opening a car door can be a challenge for many newly arrived refugees who have gone their whole lives without using the modern amenities that many of us take for granted.
Therefore, I think carefully, many Burmese refugees are struggling with even how to live in a house, how stressful must it be to pay back their loan? We see cases of refugee violence such as “the case of three murder charge on 18-year-old Eh Lar Doh Htoo, North Carolina, in the United States,” what went wrong? What drove him to commit these crimes? These types of stresses facing refugees are the same in North Carolina and in Canada.
The Canadian government’s 2 tier-system of waiving the repayment of immigration loans to some refugees and not others is discrimination against all refugees. It creates inequality to rank one above the other which conflicts with the multicultural system of Canada, politically and socially.
If we do not end the loan policy for everyone, we Canadians are not being fair. Yet, to borrow the words of Justin Trudeau, it matters to see the gorgeous smiles not only from recent refugees but also from all of us, Canadians, equally. To do that, we should waive the ILP for all refugees equitably and equally.
Thanks to your support, STAND Canada’s e-petition to reform the ILP has far exceeded it’s signature goal. Stay tuned to STAND Canada by following us on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to hear about our next steps now that this petition will be tabled in Parliament!