Media coverage of the arrival of Syrian refugees reflects our collective excitement, along with fear and uncertainty and anticipation. Yet the history of local refugee resettlement can ground us. Instead of asking, “how will we do it?” we can consider, instead, “how have we been doing it?”
People fled to Canada long before the label “refugee” became a legal way of categorizing those in need. Unless you are indigenous, you or your family arrived and had to integrate in some way. Often, this resettlement work is informally shouldered by those who once made a similar transition. Many of those unofficial settlement workers assisted others simply by being members of a community: by stepping in to translate because they knew the language, by helping find employment, by explaining the bus system, or where to find the best injera.
This region is made up of people from somewhere else, not including our indigenous neighbours. We arrive here for different reasons, but we stay and thrive because of the hospitality shown to us by those who came before.