Manitoba

Anti-Syrian sentiment on social media worries Winnipeg school trustee

A Winnipeg School Division trustee is worried students could be pushed by negative social media campaigns toward racism against Syrian refugees.

More than 45,000 have signed online petition to stop Syrian refugee resettlement in Canada

Syrian refugee Mohammad word al Jaddou stands in front of his siblings, twins Maria, right, and Hasan. Their family fled Syria in 2012 after their home was bombed. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

A Winnipeg School Division trustee is worried students could be pushed by negative social media campaigns toward racism against Syrian refugees.

Dean Koshelanyk raised the issue at a WSD finance meeting Monday night, asking how administrators are prepared to deal with the situation should it arise when Syrian students arrive.

"Many of our students and staff are extremely welcoming. They understand that refugees are scared and needing help," he said.

Dean Koshelanyk says online petitions to keep refugees out of Canada equate "so many stupid things that make no sense." (Courtesy Dean Koshelanyk)
"[But] if you're not teaching people what the benefits are of taking in refugees, they don't know, and somebody else is teaching them, like social media." 

More than 45,000 people have signed an online petition in Canada to stop the federal government's plan "to resettle 25,000 refugees in our peaceful land."

Another petition in Canada has nearly 30,000 signatures, while many more, aimed at people in the United States and Europe, are floating around Facebook.

"Anyone who is on Facebook has seen people posting this, these petitions to keep the refugees out and these stupid little pictures equating so many stupid things that make no sense," Koshelanyk said in an interview. "It is out there and you see them on Twitter as well, people sending these things out.

"Regardless of what anybody says, if you're on social media you've seen it. [And] our kids are on social media, that's all there is to it," he added.

"They see these postings and they wonder what's going on — do I need to be scared? And the answer is no, you don't."

After speaking to administrators, Koshelanyk said he is confident the division is ready.

"I really think that once the refugees start coming in, people will see this as a good thing — this is a great thing," he said.

"Once they see the real side of the story — somebody just posting random thoughts on the internet — everything will be a lot better."

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