The Little Boy In the Sea

One should be able to see things as hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

My nature is to be positive. Even in the most desperate of situations, I see light and simply focus on that, mostly to the exclusion of everything else. Some might call me naïve. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Despite my disposition, I tend to write about dark subjects. In fact, I’ve been worried that my new novel, The Brink of Freedom − about the plight of refugees in cash-strapped Greece − is far too gloomy. My critique group has read drafts of the novel and told me that the novel is hopeful too. I’m not so sure.

Seeing the developments last week regarding the refugee crisis, I’ve questioned whether there can ever be a positive resolution for the refugees. Alan Kurdi, the little boy who drowned in the sea along with his mother and brother, broke my heart and apparently opened the eyes of the world to this humanitarian crisis. News sources reported that Alan’s death was a wake up call for our world leaders.

I’ve heard those words before: most recently after 71 people were found dead in an abandoned truck in Austria. Last year, the same thing was said after more than 500 people drowned in a boat that capsized off the coast of Italy. This year, 2432 people have drowned in the first eight months of the year attempting to cross the Mediterranean. And each time, our world leaders have promised to do better. At least some are trying: Italy, Greece (with limited resources), Austria and Germany. have, for the most part, been more welcoming. Hungary and England are another story. But, it’s a start.

On the other hand, our prime minister’s campaign team seemed to be more concerned about how the media and the opposition parties were being unfair to the Conservatives on the issue of refugees. The issue has apparently derailed the Conservative campaign. Boo hoo. If only all the world’s problems were so trivial.

Who the hell cares about political campaigns when you have people dying every day in their attempt to seek freedom?

I can tell you: not this Canadian.

We have to be better. Do better. And as a country, we haven’t. Canada has accepted just 2300 refugees over the past four years, mostly privately sponsored Syrians. We were supposed to welcome some 10,000.

According to Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court Justice and former UN high commissioner on human rights, Canada could and should do more. She suggests doing away with some of our bureaucratic processes, fast tracking 9,000 refugees each year for the next few years and she goes on to refute Mr. Harper’s claim that the only way to help refugees is to keep bombing ISIS. Yes, he has said this bombing campaign needs to go hand in hand with humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees, but the government’s own numbers of refugees granted asylum in this country tell you what the government really thinks about the commitment they made to refugees and to the United Nations.

I haven’t seen any numbers about how much we’ve spent on bombing ISIS, but I would bet it’s a lot more than what we spend in humanitarian aid and resettling refugees.

And believe me, I’m a generally positive person, but the facts are the facts. Even I can see that through my now scratched and dented rose-coloured glasses.

All of this has made me conclude that while my novel is dark, it reflects what I believe to be true of the world: there are few happy endings for those fleeing conflicts. 

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