The white helmet organization carries a body from the rubble

This article appeared in the King Weekly Sentinel on August 11th, 2021.

Canadians have committed themselves to help the world’s refugees, because we can and  because it is the right thing to do.  

Canada has obligations to the Afghan translators and their families who served with  Canadians in Afghanistan and are now at risk from deadly Taliban reprisal. Three years ago  Canada also promised Syrian “White Helmet” volunteers and their families that they would be  resettled in Canada within three months of arriving in a Jordanian refugee camp. These women  and men organised themselves and saved thousands of lives in parts of the country where there  were no government services. They ran toward danger to begin search and rescue, put out fires,  and repaired damage to electricity and water, serving distressed civilians in various ways. Then in  2018, the White Helmet rescuers themselves needed rescuing from the advancing soldiers of the  al-Assad regime. 

Canada has obligations by international treaty to accept refugees. In December of 2018,  those obligations were made more clear when Canada signed the Global Compact on Refugees.  “The Global Compact on Refugees is a framework for more predictable and equitable  responsibility-sharing, recognising that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be  achieved without international co-operation.” says the United Nations High Commission for  Refugees (UNHCR). 

In King Township we can do our part as Canadians and world citizens. Generally we are a  very lucky bunch. We have enough people and resources here to address many different issues  at once and many are doing just that. Some help King residents directly, some are invested in  helping other Canadians, some are working to secure a good future for wildlife and for humanity  through various adaptation and mitigation efforts, and some want to sponsor refugees and  warmly welcome them to our part of the world, helping them to start a new life here in King  Township.

In 2020 The Number of Displaced People Grew 

During the pandemic in 2020, globally only 34,400 of the world’s refugees were resettled in  third countries, down 69% from 2019. This is a marked decline when 1.4 million people are  estimated to be in need of resettlement. Also, the pandemic restrictions prevented those fleeing  from getting help or finding asylum in a neighbouring country. Most remained displaced within  their own country and unable to get help. The number of UN registered refugees and asylum seekers was down from what would have been expected in a non-Covid year.  

Despite international calls for ceasefires and despite Covid-related movement restrictions,  displacement continued to grow. As a result, more than 1% of the world’s population – 1 in 95  people – is now forcibly displaced. In 2010 it was 1 in 159. Think of it, more than one person to  every 100 persons in the world was forced to leave their home behind to stay safe or alive. 

By the end of last year, a total of 82.4 million people globally were refugees or asylum seekers. The number who are forced to flee from their homes and neighbourhoods keeps  growing because of conflict, violence, persecution, human rights violations and events seriously  disturbing public order. Climate change is also driving displacement and increasing the  vulnerability of those forced to flee.  

The impact from climate change is explained in the 2020 UNHCR Flagship Report on  Forced Displacement, “Many are living in climate “hotspots” where they typically lack the  resources to adapt to an increasingly inhospitable environment. The dynamics of poverty, food  insecurity, climate change, conflict and displacement are increasingly interconnected and  mutually reinforcing, driving more and more people to search for safety and security.” Most  people, just like us, would want to stay in their own country but have had to accept that they  cannot return. These people have registered with the United Nations as refugees to be resettled  They are waiting temporarily in a host country or camp for a third country like Canada to sponsor  them. 

Countries like ours need to get better at welcoming newcomers. We are not a “hot spot”  despite heat domes and a faster melting arctic. We can still grow food and have water to drink.  Next year, Canada’s government has stated its intention to accept 36,000 refugees. In our unique  and renowned private sponsorship programme, where the finances and time are volunteered by 

individual Canadians to support newcomers for about a year, that number could be made greater.  Like other developed nations, Canada has a responsibility toward serving climate justice  by not only reducing our emissions, but also by helping poorer nations cope. Extreme weather  events have been occurring in places where the people are more vulnerable and where finding  drinking water and growing food is more than a challenge. 

To think globally and act locally, to do what seems right, to do what your heart tells you to  do, these are things that help us and others. Some people may wish to be part of the local  charity King for Refugees which gathers all the goodwill in and around King to sponsor refugees  to our wonderful neighbourhoods.  

As former King resident and KfR supporter George Elliot put it, “At times it feels like a spit  in the ocean, but it’s everything for the people we help.”  

If you are interested about King for Refugees, please send an email to