Manitoba

Winnipeg woman asks Canada not to 'repeat mistake' by denying refugees entry

While some question the Trudeau government's promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2015, one Winnipeg woman says Canada can't afford to repeat the mistake of denying entry to refugees again.

'We need to provide safe haven for people who are fleeing horrific trauma and violence': Belle Jarniewski

Syrian refugees line up to receive aid for the winter from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Tripoli, northern Lebanon. Belle Jarniewski of Winnipeg, whose parents survived the Holocaust, says Canada must not make the same mistake twice by denying the refugees entry, even as some question the government's decision in the wake of the Paris attacks. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

While some question the Trudeau government's promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2015, one Winnipeg woman says Canada can't afford to repeat the mistake of denying entry to refugees again.

Both of Belle Jarniewski's parents survived the Holocaust, but each endured tragedy because Canada refused to open its doors to Jews fleeing Nazis, she told CBC.

She says her parents experienced "great difficulty" entering Canada, even when the war was over.

Belle Jarniewski's parents survived the Holocaust, although she says they were victims of tragedy because of restrictive immigration policies held by Canada at the time.

"In Mackenzie King's government, the director of immigration was called Frederick Blair. When asked how many Jews Canada could accept, his infamous statement was, 'None is too many,'" she said.

Jarniewski's father was taken to six concentration camps. He lost everything, she says, including his first wife and child.

Her mother, whose parents died of starvation and disease in the Lodz ghetto, was a teenager when her young brother was taken away to be murdered with other children aged 10 and under.

Rather than being able to settle in a new country after the horror of the Holocaust, they continued to struggle to enter Canada. Jarniewski does not want others to live under similar circumstances.

"We need to provide safe haven for people who are fleeing horrific trauma and violence," she said of Syrian refugees. 

"We need to give them the opportunity to start their lives over again in a peaceful city and a peaceful country."

Plus, Jarniewski says, there is no reason to fear incoming refugees.

"We have in place … a very serious and careful vetting process, first of all," she said.

"Second of all, there are so many people that are already in refugee camps in Turkey, in Jordan, in Lebanon that have already gone through this vetting process and that have been waiting for years."

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