Arab-Canadians polarized as conflict unfolds in the Middle East

Protesters gathered in 2012 to march against the Syrian regime in Toronto. (CBC)

Protesters gathered in 2012 to march against the Syrian regime in Toronto. (CBC)


Egyptians and Syrians are distraught and angry about the turmoil unfolding in their countries. And the tentacles of conflict are far reaching. Conflicts half a world a way have so polarized Arab-Canadians, some say rational discussion in this country is near impossible. We talk about how diaspora communities cope when their homelands are in trouble.

Omar Alghabra is a Syrian-Canadian and a former Member of Parliament. His immediate family lives in Syria and he's watched the deepening divisions tear apart communities and infuriate families.  

He sees similar divisions among Arab-Canadians, especially following the turmoil in Egypt. This week, Alghabra lamented on his Facebook page how toxic the conversation has become.

Yesterday, reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria were a gruesome reminder the conflict was far from over. But the more intense the conflict, the more difficult it seems for Arab Canadians to talk to each other about it. Omar Alghabra is finding this distressing. 

The kind of arguments polarizing the Egyptian diaspora are common enough in this country.  Many immigrant communities have undergone similar conflicts. And some people think this may be the start of a process that has political benefits for Canada abroad.  Ato Quayson is the Director of Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at University of Toronto.  He was in our Toronto studio.  

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Sujata Berry and Theresa Burke.

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