Nfld. & Labrador

Islamic talk in Happy Valley-Goose Bay draws small audience

Amid online controversies about bringing Syrian refugees to Happy Valley Goose Bay, a talk this week in the town by a member of Canada's Ahmadiyya Muslim community drew a small crowd.
Malik travels extensively giving educational talks about Islam. (Jay Legere/CBC)

Amid massive online controversy over bringing Syrian refugees to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a talk this week in the town by a member of Canada's Ahmadiyya Muslim community drew a small crowd.

"The whole purpose of these talks is to raise the awareness about what are the real teachings of Islam," said Fazal Malik, who lives in P.E.I. but travels extensively speaking on issues surrounding Islam.

"Very few people actually have a chance to speak to, or ask questions directly to a Muslim. That's what brings me to Labrador," Malik told Labrador Morning.

"We thought we would reach out, and knock on the door, and say 'hello, this is who we are'. This is just an effort to get closer to our neighbours across Canada."

Malik gave the talk "Is Islam a threat to Canada?" at several stops in Labrador this week, but few people attended in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, with just 10 people in the audience Wednesday evening.

'My heart hurts'

Two audience members who were in the crowd were dismayed by recent anti-refugee online posts, and a petition circulating to stop any potential refugees from coming through 5 Wing Goose Bay.

Diane Climenhage and her son Matt were two of the 10 audience members in Happy Valley- Goose Bay. (Jay Legere/CBC)

"My heart hurts," said Diane Climenage, after scrolling through such posts on social media.

"I think the more education we can share with our children about what's happening in the world, and what's happening in our own community, will lessen their fear, lessen their anxiety, and help them be more accepting."

Climenhage brought her 15-year-old son to the talk.

"You can't complain if you're not educated about it. And this was the perfect opportunity to be educated. They just missed their chance, said Matt Climenhage.

"I wanted to support any community event that promotes dialogue on things that we don't know much about," added Diane Climenhage.

Jones says she gets dozens of emails from constituents every day asking to help bring Syrian refugees to Labrador. (CBC)

Speaking on CBC's CrossTalk Thursday,Labrador MP Yvonne Jones said similar sentiments are playing out across Canada.

"While there might be some people in Labrador that might be opposed to bringing in Syrian refugees, that's no different than people being opposed in any region of the country. We're not an anomaly here," said Jones.

"There is tremendous support in Labrador as well, to bring in Syrian refugees."

Resettling refugees

"I think yes, absolutely, we should take in refugees. That's the right thing to do, that's the humanitarian thing to do," said Malik, 

He said he understood people's fears that terrorists could come to Canada among the refugees, but that wasn't an excuse to deny help.

"It basically means we need to be more vigilant," said Malik.

"We have always put our faith in the Canadian services, the border services, the security services. To those people who have some apprehensions, I say, but your trust back in those services."

After the talk, Matt Climenage agreed.

"I just don't think people would leave a war, to start a war," he said.

With files from Jay Legere