They are now living in Winnipeg, having come across the US border as refugees. One of them has been here for a couple of years: He arrived mid-August 2015 by swimming across the Red River. The other two arrived in the dead cold of last December and have paid the price for their freedom - quite literally - with their digits, which were frozen so severely they have been surgically removed.
I then was given a tour through Welcome Place, and I saw the desks at which employees and volunteers sit to help refugees navigate their way through the many forms needed to file their case. They have just 72 hours from arrival on Canadian soil in which to file the first forms to make their claim; thereafter, they have just 15 days in which to expand on, and submit, their claim.
And I saw the bare-bones apartment that Welcome Place offers refugees as their first home in Winnipeg. It was compact and clean, but spare. Very spare. I tried to see it through the eyes of a mother who might arrive with her children having left everything behind in, let's say, Syria. And I tried to imagine what it must feel like to bear the burden of all that loss for the sake of all that might be gained in the future -- if only one can make it into that future with head and heart intact. And I wondered if I would have the courage and the fortitude, the daily confidence, to wake up and do all the very hard work of learning the language, navigating the city, meeting strangers, figuring out how to take the bus, how to find food my kids will eat, how to make friends...
And, truly, it's near impossible for me to imagine what it must feel like. Can you?
Whether or not you can, I am asking you to #openyourhearts and support the important work that happens 24/7 at Welcome Place. Big or small, every donation will help men and women and children who found the courage to leave their lives behind and to find their way into Canada and, they hope, a new and better future for themselves.
This is our time to make a difference. With Donald Trump rampaging across democracy in the US, and with Kevin O'Leary set to emulate the carnage in Canada (at least, that's what I believe he will do if he wins the Conservative leadership), I am committed to standing up for the core values that guide the work of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council:
I stand #WithRefugees. Will you?