Daphne Bramham (The Vancouver Sun):
It was distressingly and tragically brought home by the image of a toddler, drowned off the coast of Turkey fleeing the Syrian civil war, that Canadians are no longer who we think we are.
If this were our imagined country, three-year-old Alan Kurdi might have been safely playing at home in Coquitlam. But an urgent plea for help by the Kurdi family both here and in Syria was rejected.
The poignant image of the little boy is reminiscent of one from 43 years ago of a Vietnamese girl running, crying, her clothes burned off by a napalm bomb dropped by Americans. The image of that little girl — a Canadian now — helped end a war.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper recognized the potency of Alan Kurdi’s photo and the refugee issue and jettisoned an expected announcement about money for Surrey’s rapid transit line to defend his government’s record.
He called Canada “one of the most generous refugee systems in the world,” but made no promise to do more.
He talked about terrorists and the need for Canadian fighter jets to continue bombing Islamic State positions in Syria and the 69 special forces to continue training Kurdish fighters.
We are now as much a warrior state as a humanitarian nation. We do neither on a scale large enough to make a real difference.
Canada has lost its way. But, now that Alan Kurdi’s photo has been seen around the world and the family’s story told, the new Canada has been starkly revealed to us and to others.
We are not what we were and not what most of us believe or want this country to be. It’s something worth talking and thinking about before we choose our new government.