As thousands of migrants inches closer towards the United States border, a Nanaimo woman wants the Canadian government to come to their aid.
Hilde Schlosar, former executive director with the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, has started a petition on Change.org requesting the federal government grant asylum to the caravan of migrants from Central America that are currently in Mexico, but making their way to the United States. Her petition, started over the weekend, has more than 2,000 signatures and is growing.
“The migrant caravan traveling though Mexico are facing potential violence and imprisonment at the U.S.A. border. They are desperate people who are determined to find safety and a better life for their families … Canada has the capacity and the capability to take in the Central American migrants,” the petition says.
The caravan is made up of more than 5,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, who are fleeing violence and poor economic prospects in their homelands. The migrants began their trek to the United States border in mid-October and intend to cross into California, according to CBS News.
Schlosar told the News Bulletin she started the petition as a way to get the federal government to “pay attention” and hopes it will act. She said the situation in Central America is troublesome and Canada should help, as it did with bringing in thousands of refugees from Syria.
“The U.S. is turning away all these people and not only turning them away, but threatening them and here we sit on the other side of their border really looking for people who have the kind of resilience and fortitude and determination to come to a country and make a new life,” she said.
Since the caravan began its march toward the United States, President Donald Trump has claimed on Twitter that the caravan is made up of some “very bad thugs and gang members.”
Schlosar, who during her time with the CVIMS oversaw the resettlement of government-assisted refugees in Nanaimo, said refugees and immigrants don’t lead to higher crime rates. She said the language used by the government in the United States is troubling.
“I was really distressed by the vitriol and the threats coming from the American government,” she said, adding that the rhetoric is only pushed by those who are “fearful” of other people.
Canada has the proven experience and ability to resettle thousands of people said Schlosar, adding that Canada has previously vetted refugees in other countries, and could make an arrangement with the Mexican government to do so.
“We have the capacity, we have the capability, we’ve proven that over and over again with the refugees that we have accepted around the world and with the way we’ve helped in other crisis situations,” she said. “It is no different than anything we’ve ever done before.”
Recently, the federal government announced that they it plans to boost the number of immigrants accepted to 350,000 per year in 2021. Schlosar said with a declining birth date and more people retiring, Canada needs immigrants to address labour shortages throughout the country.
“We have a declining number of people in the work force, we have a lot of seniors retiring, we need new people,” she said. “This country needs people to grow, to take the jobs that people are retiring from.”
At the end of the day , Schlosar just wants to see the Canadian government reach out and help a group of people in need.
“I am a proud Canadian and one of the things that makes me proud is how we do welcome the world and open our doors and hearts to people who are desperate and in need and we’ve proven it over and over again and this is a group of people that needs our help,” she said.