October 22nd, 2017

Canada has history with refugees

By Kuhl, Nick on June 9, 2017.

Susan McDaniel discusses her presentation ÒCanada: Long a Refugee Haven Ñ a Model for Other Countries?Ó during Thursday's SACPA session at Country Kitchen Catering. Herald photo by Tijana Martin @TMartinHerald

Nick Kuhl

Lethbridge Herald


There is a long tradition in Canada of welcoming refugees.

Just in the past 40 years, nearly 300,000 refugees have resettled in this country. Although there were many thousands long before then as well, the public seems to have largely forgotten, says an internationally known sociologist.

Susan McDaniel, Canada Research Chair in Global Population and Life Course, and Professor of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge, said refugees have long been an important element of forming part of our country and communities.

“What I’m trying to emphasize is there’s been this long history, so this is not new,” she said just ahead of her appearance at the regular SACPA meeting Thursday at Country Kitchen Catering.

“There is kind of a myth that this is new and different. It’s not. There have been flow after flow after flow of refugees.”

McDaniel, who is also Prentice Research Chair in Global Population and Economy, and Director of the Prentice Institute, said Canada should not be considered a melting pot, but rather as multicultural and multinational. Canada is the second most ethnically-diverse country in the world, behind only Australia.

The country has also been a haven for waves of refugees, she said. Just since the middle of the 20th century, there was refugees from Hungary in the 1950s, Czech refugees in the 1960s, and many thousands from Vietnam – and the United States – in the late 1960s and during the 1970s.

Waves from the U.S. go farther back, too, McDaniel said, and trends will continue.

“People are on the move. Not only the flows from Africa, Syria and the Middle East, which are horrible,” she said. “But it’s also the case that a lot of academics and scholars and young people and people seeking education, are moving.”

Even though Lethbridge has been great at welcoming refugees, including those from Bhutan and Syria, McDaniel believes the public as a whole at every level needs to do more – and that begins with dispelling myths that refugees are dangerous.

“Government partnerships are important; people’s attitudes are extremely important. Understand that a lot of people have been refugees,” she said.

“Generally speaking, they’re desperate people who are eager to make good in a new land and to contribute. There’s an awful lot of ignorance about it. Which I think is problematic. But, on the other hand, most of the weight goes to good-news stories. We have to emphasize that.”

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