You Are Here : A Come from Away Story.


I recently saw this documentary You Are Here : A Come from Away Story and was very much inspired by the spirit of welcome the people of Gander, Newfoundland offered to the many strangers whose planes were diverted there because of 9/11.  The people on these planes were, in some sense, refugees, albeit for a short time.

It made me wonder about all those other refugees who are fleeing violence, persecution, climate change, etc. and who do not get the same hospitable response in many parts of the world.

The people in Gander rolled up their sleeves and responded with love to these unknown people who were trapped there.  They had no choice but to stay in Gander.  They were dependent on their hosts for pretty much everything.  That is very much similar to what refugees go through minus the violence (no choice, trapped, dependent).

I pondered about how we have so many wonderful people throughout Canada.  When there are crises, we help those in need, whether they are our neighbours or strangers.  During the Syrian crisis, they were so many people who opened their arms, their hearts and just helped out.  There was a woman who started to knit touques and was joined by many others.

Another woman made welcome buttons.  Many others formed groups to sponsor the numerous Syrians fleeing their homes.  All of this was encouraged by our federal government who promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.

But now, our federal government is plodding along.  There are only approximately 9,000 government-assisted refugees who will come this year.  Canada has the capacity to do much more.  And it should.  There are many crises in the world right now.  The number of refugees keeps growing by the hour.

Here in Québec, the government has put a cap on the number of refugees that private groups can sponsor.  Many people were disappointed in January when they found out that they would not be able to sponsor a refugee family because the government had come to its limit.

How is it possible that one year, the federal government is able to manage to bring over 25,000 refugees (it ended being closer to 45,000 with all of the privately-sponsored refugees) and then the following years not even 10,000 (with the privately-sponsored refugees the total is about 25,000)?

Our government has patted itself on the back for bringing so many refugees in 2016 but has not maintained that same level (not even close).

I have not come up with an answer to that question.  The only thing I know is that there are many people throughout Canada who are like the people of Gander and are ready and willing to welcome more refugees, people who are in need and who have no place to go, just like the ones who were stranded in Gander.

Norbert Piché is the Directeur national Service jésuite des réfugiés - Country Director Jesuit Refugee Service – Canada

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 09:01h, 13 April Reply

    Thank you Norbert!

  • Maria Skarzynski
    Posted at 11:39h, 13 April Reply

    Why do the ‘likes’ not work from our part of the Country?

    • John J. Pungente, SJ
      Posted at 19:21h, 13 April Reply

      Please contact me – – and lt me know what pat of the country you ae in aad how long you have had this problem. I will forward your reply to our technician to see if he fix fix this. thanks for letting us know

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