I am a fortunate, privileged man. I am married to an amazing woman. Together we produced three great kids who we keep around the house in spite of the amount of time they spend locked in mortal combat with one another and us.
I have a job that generally allows me to pay the bills and keep food on the table. I had a good childhood and adolescence with parents who love and support me. I have a kid brother who is taller than me and still acknowledges that I am the greatest brother ever.
We have a roof over our heads and we live in a great city, in a country that affords us the opportunity to live in peace and pursue our lives and dreams.
Lately I’ve been thinking about people who aren’t as fortunate as me, mostly the large numbers of indigenous peoples in Canada living in unacceptable conditions on reserves as well as the refugees fleeing wars, brutal governments and domestic terrorists.
I know I should be thinking about the plight of those less well off all the time. The reality is that I don’t. While I am able to pay our bills, I am not ever more than a paycheque from getting into financial difficulties. So our ability to financially help others is quite limited. My primary responsibility is to provide for my family and then look for opportunities to help others. It doesn’t do anyone any good if we also end up needing financial support from others. It is sort of the airline oxygen mask approach to life. Look after your primary need and then the primary need of others.
I can’t solve the world’s problems or even the problems of all the people in my neighbourhood. We all have to pick our battles or we would be overcome with all the need out there. I am trying to raise kids who believe in themselves and in others. I hope that they will grow up with an appreciation for the things we can achieve together as humans. I hope they will see power and value in diversity in all its human forms. I want for them to challenge barriers as they encounter them for themselves and others. I want them to be a part of the solution to our environmental challenges. I try to find ways to support and contribute to organizations and causes that I believe in – often in non-monetary ways.
Now it is the Christmas and holiday seasons. A time of giving , family and love. It is the time of year when other people want a list from me of all the stuff I would like from them for Christmas.
The thing is… this year I don’t want anything. I have lots of stuff and sure there are things I could use or would like to have. The reality is that I don’t need any of it.
In this country we have a long history of disrespecting, abusing and generally trying to wipe out the indigenous peoples. It is shameful, terrible and frankly criminal. We now have the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which includes final recommendations on how we as a country can begin to make amends for and deal with centuries of institutional, systemic, structural and individual racism and abuse. These are not issues that I can solve this month. Over the next year I will figure out how I, as an individual can contribute to these solutions.
I can however do something to help those seeking refuge from untenable situations in their homelands. Canada has embarked on a national project to invite at least 25,000 Syrian refugees to join us here in Canada. The first several hundred have already arrived. I know that we as a country can take in more than 25,000 and hopefully through the tremendous outpouring of support from people and communities we can get that number much higher. I’d personally like to see 100,000 or more refugees relocate to Canada. This is an immediate need. The people who are coming are arriving with virtually nothing.
For Christmas this year, I have asked my family to donate to local immigrant-serving organizations that are supporting the refugees in Canada. I told my kids as well that this is the gift I would like from them. I’d like to ask you to consider doing the same. It doesn’t matter how much you are able to contribute. $5 or $5000 will all help. Think about how fortunate you are in your life and the challenges being faced by these women, men and kids who are fleeing for their lives. We have the ability to help. The organizations supporting people in the refugee camps also need your support, such as the Red Cross and the UN Refugee Agency. So this year, consider reducing the amount of stuff that you give and receive and instead consider how you can help those who need our assistance. In Ottawa you can donate to Ottawa United for Refugees.