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When I saw the photo of the lifeless body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying face down in the sand on a Turkish beach, I saw my own three-year-old son and was reminded yet again how fortunate Canadians are to live where we do.
Here in Metro Vancouver, we like to complain about our first world problems, but when we look at that heartbreaking photo, all our complaints about bridge toll rates, bike lanes, power outages, and house prices are brought into sharp focus. Hopefully, for more than a moment, we can realize we have nothing worth complaining about.
As a former member of the Armed Forces, I’ve often said I’ll complain when I don’t have running water and my government tries to kill me — because until then, I don’t have any real problems.
Today, the refugee crisis has a face. After years of the international community and media largely ignoring the Syrian civil war, Alan has brought it back to the forefront. But it wasn’t the war that killed Alan, it wasn’t Assad, ISIS or the people who steered that boat. What ultimately killed poor, innocent Alan was the indifference and inaction of the international community. The Canadian government is as guilty as any government, and hopefully a lesson will have been learned here.
Four years ago, when Bashar Assad started killing civilians, we did nothing. When the rebels fought back against Assad, nothing much was done then either. When Al Qaeda got involved we did nothing yet again, and only when ISIS joined in did we start to take the crisis seriously. The Harper government's concern came too late for little Alan and the over 200,000 who have died in Syria in the past four years. How many children are in that number? And how many civilians?
Only when the photo of Alan's body came up on Facebook and twitter, did we awaken from our trance to become outraged. The question is whether we will remain outraged long enough for our elected leaders to do something substantial to alleviate this humanitarian crisis. Or, will the next hit reality show or scandal distract us for another four years? Just because the media no longer regularly covers a war doesn't mean it has magically ended. We fail when we become so absorbed in the unimportant drivel in our culture that we forget the plight of those whose only crime was to be born in a country gripped by war.
Like it or not, we live in a global community. The problems faced overseas do affect us here at home. Our actions — or inaction — have an impact over there. I don’t have the answers, but I’ve seen firsthand the horrid scars war leaves behind. I’ve seen children who live daily without power, running water, access to school, and who can’t run freely in nearby fields because of land mines.
Canada cannot save the world alone — but we can act and hopefully make a difference.
Alan Kurdi was three years old. He is dead because the rest of the world didn’t care until his last picture was taken. We should never forget that there are so many stories like his that go untold.