Refugee crisis: Montreal church group petitions Ottawa to help Syrians
A church group is hitting the streets of Montreal, seeking signatures for a petition demanding the federal government allow Quebec to open its doors to more Syrians seeking help.
“Every day we wait more and more people are hurt and abused and dying. And it's just wrong. It's just absolutely wrong,” said Fr. Arlen Bonnar, minister at St. James United Church.
Outside the church on Ste. Catherine St W. between City Councillors and St. Alexandre Sts., there are signs and calls for change. The petition is destined for Ottawa, demanding the government facilitate the arrival of more Syrian refugees.
“People are coming to us, saying, ‘I want to sponsor my family, I want to sponsor my friends that are fleeing from Syria and I don't know what to do, no one can help me,’” said social worker Marianne Leanne-Welt.
With the Syrian war in its fifth year now, members of the Montreal City Mission said they are among the many determined to do more.
“I think it was that photo, that was perhaps one photo too much for people to see that poor little boy washed ashore, but of course he represents how many hundreds of thousands of little boys that have perished,” said Paula Kline, director of the Montreal City Mission.
Of the Syrian refugees Canada has accepted to date, 60 per cent have come to Quebec.
On Monday, Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil promised to accept more. On Wednesday, Weil said the federal government is still evaluating Quebec's proposal.
There is no time to waste, said Bonnar.
“The crisis is now, the reality is now, people are dying now – so let's do something now, not three to five years. Now. Three to five years down the road half of those 4 million people will be dead,” he said.
Sukaina Amirali stopped to listen and sign the petition, saying Canadians have no idea how devastating life can be for those with nowhere to call home.
“How would you feel if you're in your house and someone comes and takes your things and throws you out. Where would you go?” said Amirali.
Every signature is one small step, said Bonnar.
“I think every signature can make a difference,” he said. “The more we have, the louder it speaks.”