Why not house the Albanian refugees in Canada’s most multicultural city?
Still, some have raised concerns about the relocation. Many from Toronto’s 300,000-strong Muslim community have logistical concerns regarding the largest influx of refugees to this country since the Vietnamese boat people of the ’70s.
The concerns are serious enough that a few dozen organizations, including the Albanian Muslim Society of Toronto, will meet today to discuss them. When the news first broke that Canada would take refugees, Downsview was mentioned as a possible site.
Now the word is that the refugees will be directed to four other military bases in the province — 2,500 to Borden, 1,000 to Petawawa, 1,000 to Trenton, and 500 to Meaford — all of them outside Toronto. With an estimated 5,000 Albanians in Toronto, along with the larger Muslim community, should they not come here?
Will they be held in internment camp-like conditions, or will they be free to move around? If they are free, won’t they end up in Toronto anyway?
Grateful as they may be for the hospitality, the refugees clearly have more in common with the Albanians, Turks, and Bosnians in the city than with the residents of rural army bases.
Moreover, are we not going to make it difficult to deal with their needs?
The spokesperson for the Meaford base said yesterday that the fact that nobody speaks the language of the refugees is “a very real problem.”
And what about cultural issues?
Though not all are religiously observant, many will, for instance, wish to abide by Islamic dietary rules. Such cultural concerns would be best met in Toronto.
Before news broke that the refugees were headed out of Toronto, many here were getting ready to reach out to them, and some even offered space in their homes.
Lloyd Axworthy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, said yesterday that the offers of housing might be taken. If this is the case, then why send the refugees to live away from Toronto?
The mothballed Downsview base may not be the best place to live, but it’s better than the other bases.
In the end, what is most likely to come out of today’s meeting is a call for government to work with the city and concerned groups to try to house Kosovo refugees in Toronto, close to their own.
Story Type: News
Note: Faisal Kutty is a Toronto lawyer and writer.
Length: 404 words
Keywords: REFUGEES; WAR; STRIFE; MIGRATION; REACTION; YUGOSLAVIA; CANADA
Company: Albanian Muslim Society
Note: First Published: Wednesday, April 7, 1999 in The National Post
Byline: Faisal Kutty
Column: City Diary
Source: National Post
Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/yjxwo9v