January was a busy month. There is so much cruelty and sadness in the world right now. My reaction has been mixed; some days I binge on news, Facebook, and Twitter trying to soak up all of the stories, all of the trauma, all of the anger. Some days I can’t look at my phone because I’m too scared to see what’s going on. This past weekend I was off the grid staying south of Jasper where cell phone signals don’t reach and I felt both relieved and uncomfortably out of touch.
The recent Muslim Ban in the United States has (to put it lightly) caused an enormous amount of trauma, chaos, and upheaval for millions of people worldwide. Trump’s executive order has not only suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, but has also banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) from entering the United States for 90 days. To make matters worse, the Safe Third Country Agreement signed between the United States and Canada in 2004 requires refugee claimants to make their claim in the first country that they reach, and does not allow them to transfer this claim. This means that due to US laws, many people who would receive protection in Canada are being denied refugee status in the States. Refugees should not have to risk their lives and take desperate measures to get to safety. The Canadian government has since rejected recent calls to scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement, making it more important than ever for us all to do our part to protect refugees.
I have recently found myself thinking: “What can one person do? What difference does it make if I am informed or not?” How on earth can one person learn enough, be informed enough, to speak out about the issues that they care about?
Answer? Look around you for some help!
I was relieved last week to hear about a student-led event last week on campus where students and community members could gather together to write letters to our elected officials in support of welcoming refugees into Canada, and resisting the Muslim ban. Not having written Justin Trudeau a letter in a while (read: ever), I was thankful for the guidance that the organizers of the event provided (who knew that writing your elected officials was so easy!!). I am sharing these instructions in the hopes that one more person out there might write a letter to encourage our government to step up in this time of global crisis and support those who need aid.
First step: Figure out your address list! Whether you’re looking to write Justin Trudeau, your local MP, MLA, Premier, or Mayor, all of the addresses that you need are just a google away. Best news yet – if you’re writing the big man PM or your MP at the House of Commons address, you don’t even need a stamp!
Second step: How do I address my letter? This link has a great overview of how to respectfully address each government official, but a good rule of thumb is overall be respectful. This means no profanity, no threats, provide your contact information (address and email), and thank them for the time they have taken to read your letter.
Third step: Content! Feel free to get creative, but keep your letter as short and concise as possible. Include specific, achievable criteria in your list of demands. Ensure that your letter is well-written and legible.
Below are the suggested demands for each level of government, which can be tailored to your liking or preference when writing your elected officials:
Federal Demands (for MPs, Immigration Minister, and Prime Minister):
- Remove the “Safe Third Country Agreement” which makes it impossible for refugees who have applied to the United States for safe haven to make claims in Canada upon being rejected by Trump’s executive order.
- Remove the “1,000” annual limit on Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
- Set a target of 35,000 – 100,000 (or more) refugees to be let into Canada (with government assistance) from all sources for 2017.
Provincial Demands (for MLAs, Premiers):
- Use your political place to call for the federal government to let in more refugees and fulfill the above three federal requests (include federal demands here).
- Galvanize your constituency around the idea of welcoming refugees and inspire community organizers, religious groups, and others to garner funds for sponsorship.
- Let the federal government know that refugees are welcome in your province and are an intrinsic part of your provincial success.
Municipal Demands (for city councillors, mayor):
- Use your political place to call for the federal government to let in more refugees and fulfill the above three federal requests (again, include federal demands here). Call on your provincial government to do the same.
- Galvanize your municipality around the idea of welcoming refugees and inspire community organizers, religious groups, and others to garner funds for sponsorship.
- Let the federal government know that refugees are welcome in your city and are an intrinsic part of your municipality’s success.
… And that’s it folks! Yes, you are one person; but when we band together we become so much more than a single voice. We become a commanding force demanding better for future generations, for our fellow humans, and for the earth. Please write your letter today, and join in solidarity.