2nd Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 152, Issue 51

Thursday, June 17, 2021
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

World Refugee Day

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, this Sunday, we will mark the twentieth anniversary of World Refugee Day. Almost 50 years ago, I became a refugee, and almost every day, I say a prayer of gratitude that Canadians gave me and my family a place to call home and amazing opportunities. I know how lucky I am to live in Canada and to be a Canadian.

During COVID, we have all gone through some of the most difficult times in our lives. However, those difficult times are not all the same. Every day, I think of the people who are literally fleeing to save their families and their lives. While the world has been in lockdown, refugees have nowhere to flee.

Muna Luqman, chairman of Food4Humanity shared Mariam’s story with me. Mariam had to flee her home in Saada, northwestern Yemen, with 13 children after the conflict erupted. She is a widow with six children of her own, and she looks after seven of her nieces and nephews since her brother and his wife were killed in the bombing that forced her to leave home.

Mariam said:

We live in dire conditions which can’t combat the spread of COVID-19. We barely get drinking water and can’t worry about hygiene and proper hand washing. All around us, people are dying from contaminated water.

At night it gets very cold, but we don’t have a blanket for everyone, so one blanket is shared by three.

Today, and on the twentieth anniversary, I respectfully ask you all to think of the realities of these people. As legislators, we have passed legislation that has allowed our borders to stay closed.

Honourable senators, I know that it is the right thing for us Canadians. However, that action has shut down the most vulnerable. I humbly ask that we legislators seek ways to assist refugees.

Honourable senators, I shiver when I think about what could have happened to me and my family if, when we sought to come to Canada, the doors were locked. My dad definitely would have not survived. He would have been killed.

This World Refugee Day, this refugee week, we need to think about what lockdown means and has meant for people around the world who are not safe in the countries where they were born. We have to think of the refugees.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.