Last week, Rachael Mackay suggested that Canadian citizens should take priority over refugees. Her letter said that refugees will be paid more than the welfare rate and that the churches in Salmon Arm are not helping our own homeless and needy. With all due respect, there are several misconceptions to address here.
Actually, the federal government supports the refugee family at the welfare rate for six months; the voluntary church or community group covers the costs for the rest of the year and, more importantly, supports the family in settlement and becoming independent.
The churches in Salmon Arm do have a history of supporting our own citizens. Six years ago the United Church opened its doors providing the homeless a dry and warm place to sleep. With volunteer community and church support, the “Inn From the Cold” made a difference – and now, the Salvation Army Church operates the Lighthouse Shelter. In addition, the two food banks and the Churches’ thrift store provide an extremely valuable service to those less fortunate.
It’s not that the typical church-going individual is more compassionate or generous that any other member of the community. At the heart of it all, we all want to help those who are vulnerable and hurting. It’s a big part of what makes us human. The war in Syria has created a dire humanitarian crisis; half the civilian population has been displaced because of extreme violence. Thankfully, numerous residents of the Shuswap have stepped forward to help out.
In response to the comment that we should help our own first, all I can say is that yes, we should continue to help our own, but that does not mean we should not also help those from beyond our borders seeking safe haven. We can do both.