“Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependent upon popular opinion?” ~ William Lloyd Garrison

This is the ship my grandparents and mother came to Canada on,according to the immigration documents I’ve found on my mother and grandparents.

My maternal grandparents, were a huge part of my life growing up. My poppa, was my everything.Both immigrants who had overcome big challenges in their lives in Germany and Denmark, they came to Canada for a better life for their children… one of whom was my mother.

I’ll never forget when as a teen, already insatiably curious and never one to follow the rules of never asking too many questions, I asked my grandparents what it was like when they came to Canada.
“Ach!” my Nani said: ” We could not buy anyting dat did not haf  a picture of the food on it!”
There were no ESL lessons, no immigrant support services when my grandparents came to Canada, and it was hard for them. Very hard. They made their way to British Columbia and Prince George was where they settled.

My grandfather used his carpentry skills  to build northern BC, as did my father who worked on one of the Peace River dams where I spent a summer with my mom and brother living in a tent trailer in a campground in Hudson’s Hope.

Somewhere along the line, one or both met  Koazi Fujikawa, who I only knew growing up in the north as ‘Uncle Koazi’ 

Even when Koazi moved from PG back to Mission, friends used to ask me how I had a Japanese uncle when my family was all white!  The funny thing is, I never questioned his presence until someone else did.

Koazi came up several times a year to bring us smoked salmon,blackberries, and it was from him I learned the need and value of the ooligans. When the runs were good, he would harvest them with his friends in local First Nations, smoke them and bring them to us up north.

Looking back now, it may not seem like the most conventional childhood, but really, it was. Unless you are Inuit or First Nations, we all came from somewhere else. Some of our families were immigrants, some were refugees, some have fled wars of their own. And I am thankful every day for where and how I grew up, and the people who shaped my life then, and now.

Would I be here, if my mother and her parents had not come over from  Europe? Would I be the person I am if I had not been born and raised in the north,experiencing sustenance hunting, fishing? Learning at times from a Canadian born Japanese man who was always thought a foreigner because of the colour of his skin?  A man  I only ever knew as my uncle?

My point is this. Today I had a bit of a rant on twitter, and again on Facebook because I feel such a negative  and hypocritical push-back  on  social media when it comes to Syrian Refugees.

I now make my home in Surrey. I have been a long,vocal and at times,the only critic of civic policy because I could see where it was leading.For years, Surrey has banked on having the lowest taxes in Metro Vancouver as a selling point to negate the negative press.

That has come,sadly, with a huge cost.

Instead of having reasonable,marginal property tax and DCC increases, we now see the large increases, because apparently the cost of policing in such a huge area, is a surprise. ( It is not, unless you are a dolt)

And of course, we see again now because our budget crisis is happening at the same time as our incoming refugees are in the news, a flurry of racist crap. And yes, it is crap.

But should any of the failures of  our city government, of our provincial government, or our federal government…be the concerns of many fleeing a war we in Canada are helping to perpetuate?

No. No, this is not their fault, or their doing.

What I find so appalling… and you know who you are… is that many of the same people who are freaking out about accepting refugees because  we are overloaded in our schools,clinics, hospitals etc….  are the same people who voted our current city council in. They have been silent since the last election except for talking about how great everything is… and suddenly now they are bringing up these issues as a reason why we should not let refugees into Surrey.

Yousuddenly have an issue with overcrowding? Talk to your city council who approved it all. In the face of people calling for restraint…. for years. Where were you when we were talking about this?

You have an issue in Surrey with refugee’s who do not have support services? Talk to your local Liberal/NDP MLA and find out why there is no funding.  Did you ask about this before voting? No???

You think we should take care of our own? Great! I do too…but where were you when people were calling for support for a winter shelter?

Where were you when good women were feeding the homeless our city was trying to get rid of? When our Pop Up Soup Kitchen led by a woman who does not even live in Surrey… was being kicked out by our bylaws officers?

Have you been advocating and pushing for shelters, or trying to stop them? Have you been pushing for more funding to support our youth so they don’t head down the wrong path?

Where are you now, when good people leaving lives of pain and anguish, are wanting more for their children like our families wanted more for us? You get the idea.

I have been the one of the longest and loudest critics speaking out against the manner of development in our city.But I have always been on the side of what is right. And if you said nothing in the face of all the rampant development in Surrey when it was clear the province could not keep pace… you are part of the problem.

We all own this.

We are a village and yes it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village…. to raise a village. Not just a child, but a city.

Why the hate on for Syrian refugees in Surrey right now? Because I can assure you as local RCMP can, that they are not behind the 60+ shootings-many with restricted weapons- that have happened in our community this year. Nor has all this crime been committed by refugees, period.

I welcome  Syrian families and their children, despite the issues in our city,because they are fleeing war, bombs…..oh yes….war??!! The majority want to be at home. But their country is fast disappearing into a pile of rubble.

They are not responsible for overcrowding, parking ,crime in Surrey or anything else you might want to use them as an excuse for.

Blaming refugee’s is convenient, and it is easy. But they are not the cause of our problems.

Look to your elected officials for that. And if you must, look in the mirror.


“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.

You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit.

But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

Mahatma Gandhi



12 Comments on ““Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependent upon popular opinion?” ~ William Lloyd Garrison

  1. As a son of a War Bride and a first nations hero I understand the importance of this message you are trying to get across. But there are many questions about the refugees that remain unanswered. Are they coming to Surrey to become Canadians like your grandparents and Uncle or will they remain displaced Arabs. Why is Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E not taking any refugees do they know something we should? Living in the Whalley (sorry City Centre) area will they all be located here, living in the “brown apartments” illegal suites as so many others have to because of the affordable housing shortage.? Laila some of the concerns are not based on where but why Canada and not the wealthy Muslim based countries that are not at war? For so long we have been lied to by all levels of government we lash out and distrust all decisions good or bad made by them. Noble words and deeds are not always the best actions.

    • And I get that. And during the election I was actively pointing out the fact that the rich gulf states are not doing their part, nor are western nations pushing them to do so. Canada sells arms to Saudi Arabia and has targeted the Middle East as a great wealth for those same deals.

      But that does not mean we should not do our part. Nor does it mean that we should blame those coming for this situation. I, more than many get those concerns. But the hypocrisy displayed by many right now in Surrey… and elsewhere… is appalling. They are coming. And we need to welcome them.

      And it does not have to be we help one, or the other. We do not have to choose to help refugees and not our own homeless. We should be and can help both the people in our own communities. This is the time for citizens to once again, get involved, and push for their governments to adequately fund services, fund housing, make progressive decisions to deal with all of it, instead of passing the buck.

      If the people remain silent and continue to allow their governments to make decisions they are not held accountable for, what does one expect?

  2. My father, as a 7 year old, came to Canada, by ship from Auckland in 1914, with his parents, two sisters and two grandparents. As New Zealanders, they were British subjects. They eere white and, nominally at least, good Anglicans. They were quickly admitted. The Komagata Maru also arrived in Vancouver in 1914 with 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all British subjects. They were turned out and sent home in appallng conditions, one of several incidents in the early 20th century involving exclusion laws in Canada designed to keep out immigrants of Asian origin.

    To this day, colour counts and whites from the UK are hardly off the plane before they’re complaining about “all these bloody immigrants”!

    The more things change, the more they stay the same

  3. I agree 100%. No caveats. NO hesitations. I have traveled the world. I know that 99.99% of all the people everywhere are much the same as the rest of us and, to be frank, many of them are more generous than the spoiled brats many of us have become. Still, despite or own faults, we are all much the same. Do I fear the Syrian bad guy? I guess I do but in much the same manner as I fear the Hell’s Angel or the Bacon bros. types. Bad and good are not convertible. They are absolute. Bad is bad. Good is good. Know the difference.

  4. In my view, the questions posed by some regarding this crisis are really disguised excuses for inaction. It is patently obvious that these people are not arriving here as a matter of deliberate choice to better their lives. They do not come under the same circumstances as most of our forebears. They come from a place where it is not the quality of life, but the chance of life itself that is at risk.

    To deny them our help because barbaric states like Saudi Arabia shun them would reduce us to a level of humanity that we should never, ever, associate with Canadian values. And while most may be displaced Arabs, they are first and foremost displaced human beings in great need of help. We have problems here to be sure, but they pale into near insignificance when compared to the plight of these refugees.

    I sometimes distrust noble words depending on the speaker. Noble actions are the litmus test for me, and there is no better current opportunity for them to be displayed.

  5. Rafe take a look around. Our Immigrants are not from Britain. Syrian bad guys? Think of them as Nazi’s commiting acts of terror and genocide. This threat is real and Canada must be very careful with the screening process Sometimes it’s okay to say no. Moving people out of a tenement doesn’t fix the building. Lew The residential schools for my ancestors was considered a noble act. Yes The refugees are coming to Surrey, aide is being sent to Syria, my tax dollars hard at work but WHO are we welcoming.

    • So if Rafe looks around he’ll be able to spot immigrants from Britain? There are about 6500 of them per year, and your statement seems to imply all of them are readily identifiable. How? British isn’t a race. Nor is Arab. How does one spot “our” immigrants among third and fourth generation visible minorities born here by “looking around”? And what difference does it make in this instance in any case?

      You are correct when you say the screening process must be done carefully. Also that it’s sometimes okay to say no. But to say no to all current Syrian refugees because they’re fleeing acts of terror and genocide by others in their homeland is misguided and clearly not in step with the Canadian consensus.

      “Moving people out of a tenement” is a horrible analogy in this crisis for many reasons. One is that most of these individuals were not living in tenements. A large number are professionals who were living in domiciles equal to or better than yours or mine. Another is that those domiciles were bombed into complete rubble, with the death of many inhabitants. They weren’t “moved”; they are fleeing to avoid death.

      Your point regarding the residential schools is well taken. I have a friend who cried last week when a documentary on demolition of one was honored. He was sent to one as a child and his cousin attended the one featured in the documentary. Both have scars from the experience. But here’s the point: That blight on our history should help ensure the thinking behind it never happens again, and turning away from these refugees now is based on similar thinking.

      You ask,“…WHO are we welcoming?” I assume the question is not rhetorical and therefore would answer by saying that we are welcoming desperate Syrian refugees who fled for their lives, have been living in refugee camps for years in some cases, and who will have been vetted for medical and security concerns by the U.N. and the best personnel we have for the job overseas before they get on a plane to come here.

      My question to you is this: If you were standing on the shore looking these people (especially the children) in the eye, would you be able to push their boat back to sea?

    • Gee Les.
      “Think of them as Nazi’s commiting acts of terror and genocide. ….”

      A bit of an overstatement?

      These people are FLEEING the lunatics that are killing and beheading their friends/ family/ fellow citizens…….
      Think of them more as the Jews of Nazi Germany and you might be a bit closer to a proper comparison.
      Interesting stat on the news last night. 87% of students repay their loans…..91% of refugees repay their entire loans to the govt of Canada. ( yes they recieve medical exams, accomodations, citizenship papers, food vouchers,etc. Aprox $10k per person)
      Oddly enoughCanada is the only country that makes them pay it back.
      I’d take 10 Syrian refugees to look after my personal belongings than 10 Canadian crackheads any day of the week.
      Past experience has shown us that the vast majority are honest, hard working, tax paying people.
      The people we are accepting are from Refugee camps. They are being vetted as we discuss this. Germany didnt have that luxury. Count your blessings that you live in North America with several thousand miles of salt water moat to slow down the influx of people. Needless to say, that didnt stop Chinese “snakeheads” from sending illegal migrants to try.
      I dare say the distant future will bring boatloads of people from everywhere and make this “discussion” about “all those Syrians” look a bit silly.

  6. Somewhere in the future is a little girl with a solid understanding of what being Canadian means, her heritage is in how she sees and treats the world. And she may or may not have a Syrian uncle.

  7. I said above that I agree 100% with LY, Rafe, RBM and Lew on this but Les’ fear-filled, suspicious point of view, while NOT valid, is still somewhat valid simply because he, too, is a citizen of Canada and has to be heard. The real question is how do you make such a person change their mind? OR, I suppose, how do such people change ours? I did a great deal of work for the UNHCR with the ‘boat people’ and I remember having second thoughts the first time I heard of Vietnamese drug dealers, gang members and the raping and pillaging they did to shellfish and cod grounds. Oooooh, they were such bad people and maybe I was wrong to have helped. But That feeling was wrong. Natural. But wrong.There are bad (or desperate people) in all cultures. There are going to be some bad eggs in this Syrianr refugee reception. Do any of you think for one minute that all 25000 of those people are going to be sweethearts? If you do, you are delusional. You are even more delusional if you think there will be any more percentage of bad people there than any other cultural group. Les…getta grip.

  8. First thing I noticed was the name of the ship–crucial to me because my granny was born near Stavanger, Norway! I may have come from stock that came to Upper Canada before the 19th century, I also have more recent immigrants in my background. I say I’m a hybrid Canadian!

  9. Wish I could leave pictures. I’d leave you one of my German immigrant father-in-law doing surveying on the same dam your poppa worked on. Great story, great rant. Hope someone was listening. I sure was.