Edmonton·Opinion

Stop wars, end refugee problem, says Edmontonian who came here as a refugee

After the Paris attacks, many are trying to connect or associate Syrian refugees coming to Canada with the threat of terrorism. But why should the word refugee become synonymous with terrorism?

‘Why should the word refugee become synonymous with terrorism?’

"To refuse or delay resettling refugees because of what happened recently in Paris, and the fear that these refugees might be terrorists, sickens me," says guest writer Kemoh Mansaray. (CBC)

After the Paris attacks, many are trying to connect or associate Syrian refugees coming to Canada with the threat of terrorism.

But why should the word refugee become synonymous with terrorism?

Being an immigrant refugee myself, I know that millions of refugees have been admitted or resettled to Canada, the U.S. and many other countries through the refugee resettlement program.
Kemoh Mansaray is president of the Sierra Leone community in Edmonton. (Supplied)

This has been going on for a long time. There is nothing new about resettling Middle Eastern refugees to Canada, so why is it a problem now?  

I am a Canadian immigrant who came to Canada as a refugee in 2002.  I spent about two years in a refugee camp in Ghana after spending a few years in camps for displaced people in my country of Sierra Leone.

The resettling of refugees is a process much different than other immigration processes.

In my case, I had to first receive a designation as a refugee by United Nations officials, which was done in my refugee camp in Ghana. The Canadian government selects only the most vulnerable cases for resettlement, such as those with almost no hope of ever returning to their home country, or those who have been tortured.

And sometimes refugees have stayed in these camps for years. I got malaria, and became ill many times because of the harsh and deplorable conditions we were living in.

This selection process (program as we usually called it in the camps) takes a long time, from about six months to four years. The process is usually frustrating and exhausting, but trust me it is very thorough.

To refuse or delay resettling refugees because of what happened recently in Paris, and the fear that these refugees might be terrorists, sickens me.

People don't become refugees by choice

If you have never been a refugee you will never understand what it means to be one. People become refugees not by choice but because they are forced to.

People had lives before they were displaced and were usually eventually made refugees because of war. No one wants to leave all they have behind, all they have struggled to build, to become a refugee, or just because they want to go for the unknown.

Sierra Leone is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. But it is made poor by the West, which supplies weapons and ammunition to the people, and helps create a situation that ends up with them killing each other.

They supply weapons and get resources in exchange.

So please, let us reflect and stop assuming all these refugees really want to come here.

It is the hope of a new beginning in life, when all has been taken from them. It is a second chance in life, irrespective of the challenges of learning a new language and acclimatizing to a new home.

For terrorists to hide behind the refugee process would be the worst, most unimaginable possible avenue for travelling to Canada.

We should look at other flawed areas of immigration

Instead of focusing on the refugee process, I think we should be looking at our involvement in these countries, and how that involvement may impact us. Look at the other flawed areas in our immigration system that may potentially easily channel in terrorists.

War only benefits certain people, like those who make weapons, and those who have shares in military hardware, some politicians and power hungry people. Defenseless civilians are the losers, ordinary taxpayers who fund governments that invade other countries.

When a country is destroyed by war, developed countries rush in to stake their share in the rebuilding process, providing construction, cars, clothing, etc. But lives are never regained.

So let's stop our continued funding of unnecessary wars.

The more war we have, the more people will be displaced and the more refugees we will have. More hearts will be broken and the more enemies we will make.

There is nothing good about war. I have the scars to prove it.

Kemoh Mansaray is president of the Sierra Leone community association in Edmonton, and a board director with the Clareview Multicultural Centre and the Edmonton Multicultural Coalition. He is currently pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing at the University of Alberta after receiving his diploma in nursing. He holds a bachelor in human service administration from MacEwan University.

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