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Should Refugees Need to Access Food Banks?

Should Refugees Need to Access Food Banks?
A recent New York Times article presents a mostly glowing picture of Canada’s reception of Syrian refugees. It highlights the extraordinary hospitality of Canadian refugee sponsors, noting that “the Canadian government can barely keep up with the demand” to welcome new Syrian families.
 
A recent statement from Senator Jim Munson, Chair of the Senate Human Rights Committee, offers a less glowing appraisal of the situation. Senator Munson notes that “fine words and open arms… are not sufficient to address the very real and very urgent problems that lie ahead” for new refugees, and points to a pressing need for mental health services, fast-tracking of child benefits, and increased funding for language training programs.
 
Senator Munson’s statement brings attention to the gap between the intensive mutual aid offered by individual Canadians and the confusing, bureaucratic and often penny-pinching supports provided by governments.
 
John McCallum, federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, has said that he has to “work very hard not to treat refugees better than we treat Canadians.” This means that many refugees have to make do with provincial social assistance benefits that are far below any reasonable measure of poverty.
 
So, as Canadians have been doing for more than three decades, refugees from Syria and many other countries are turning to our nation’s food banks.
 
The kindness of Canadian strangers – in refugee sponsor groups, in food banks, and in many other capacities – is heartwarming and laudable. It is also imperfect and, unfortunately, unequally distributed. Only governments have the capacity to offer equitable levels of service regardless of one’s location or circumstance. Our response to Syrian refugees is just one example of how the voluntary sector – partially and imperfectly – is filling the gaps left by governments. 


Read the full Huffington Post article here

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