1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 178

Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

World Refugee Day

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I would like to bring attention to the fact that today is World Refugee Day. It is a very significant day because it gives us the opportunity to remember those displaced by conflict. Currently, there are more refugees in the world than there have been in over 18 years, over 45 million people around the world.

My family and I were refugees, and we are forever grateful to Canadians for accepting us in this great country of ours. We truly believe that now we belong.

However, most refugees are not so lucky. Countries that are surrounded by conflict are struggling to keep up with the influx of a growing refugee population, and living conditions of refugees around the world are worsening. The Syrian conflict has resulted in over 2.5 million refugees, and 1.6 million of those have crossed over into neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. Many of these people are living in makeshift housing. Women are particularly vulnerable in these situations, and they often have to rely on men for a source of income, safety and protection. Extreme cases of gender-based violence, forced marriages, child marriages, prostitution and rape occur in these situations.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you the story of Maya. Maya, a 14-year-old girl, tells her story. She said:

… when we left Syria, we slept in the street, all of us… we had nothing to eat. We ate hunger.

At 14, Maya has just been engaged to a 45-year-old man. She continued:

I’m marrying him so things will be better. I do not want to get married; I do not want to have children. I’m only doing this for security. Isn’t it shameful that I’m 14 years old and I have to marry a 45-year-old man? I don’t love him.

She started crying.

I can’t even look him in the face.

Honourable senators, on this day let us not forget the plight of refugees around the world and the difficult conditions they face. Let us remember that this great country of ours, as it did for my family and me, can make a positive difference in the lives of refugees around the world.

Honourable senators, the refugees need our support.