Kingston welcomes refugees

Local activist group holds rally to advocate for acceptance of Syrian refugees into Canada

A woman holding a sign at a rally for Syrian refugees in Kingston
Kingston was among 30 other cities in Canada to rally for Syrian refugees in the past week.
A woman holding a sign that reads "Stop Supporting Killers", with a picture of Bashar and Sisi
A rally participant raises a sign in Market Square.
Professor Ariel Salzmann (right) and other demonstrators spoke at the event.
Professor Ariel Salzmann (right) and other demonstrators spoke at the event.

Last Thursday evening, Market Square filled with concerned citizens campaigning for the Canadian government to allow refugees from Syria into Canada.

Around 200 people attended the event, which lasted about an hour.

“We thought this was a historical time in world history where the image of the three-year-old boy has shaken up people … and Kingston should be a part [of that],” Shaihla Omar, one of the event’s organizers and Queen’s student, said.

Omar was referring to the death of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who was found washed up on the Mediterranean shore after his family tried to seek asylum in Canada.

Omar said she believes it’s up to Queen’s students to get involved in social action.

“We need to have an intellectual understanding of what is going on. Many of us are privileged to be in this fine university,” she said.

The organizers of the event used Facebook posts, pamphlets and posters to raise awareness about the event.

Ariel Salzmann, associate professor of Islamic and world history at Queen’s, was among the mixed crowd of students and non-student activists at the event.

Salzmann also said she was concerned by how the world will view this event years from now. Without significant change, she said, all future generations will remember is the image of a boy washed up on the shore.

“[We’ll] see the faces of human beings who are crushed between national borders, country blocks, between washing up on the shore when their rickety boats crash.”

It’s not just the protestors who are working to invite refugees to Canada.

Lori Rand, curriculum coordinator for Faculty Development in the Faculty of Health Sciences says she supports the Kingston branch of ‘Save A Family from Syria’ as an option for helping refugees.

The organization allows families from Kingston to take in Syrian families in need.

According to Rand, the organization has already successfully settled a Syrian family in Kingston and another one is due to arrive next week.

“It’s the only active organization in Kingston that tries to get families here and they’ve had a great track record,” said Rand.

According to Rand, Mayor Bryan Paterson has formally endorsed the organization as the charity of choice for Kingston.

She said she also believes that Queen’s has the financial resources to consider supporting refugee families for the city of Kingston.

“I think that the University can look at the curriculum inside the classroom to examine how they can use this as a learning option for students during the re-settling of Syrian families here,” Rand said.

Kingston was among 30 other communities in Canada to hold a gathering regarding the Syrian refugee crisis this
past week.

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