No Place to Go: None is too Many

Black African Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Toronto

Our country’s inadequate policies around welcoming and supporting refugees and asylum seekers has led to the recent crisis for Black African asylum seekers who were left without shelter and other supports for weeks in downtown Toronto. Our government’s inaction in assisting these newcomers who were forced to flee from their home countries is unconscionable, denying them the basic needs of shelter and food. They landed in Toronto and were left to sleep on pieces of cardboard, unprotected and exposed to rain and extreme heat. They were told the Toronto shelter system was full, could not accommodate them and referred them to Service Canada who then referred them back to the municipal shelter system. They have been ‘pawns’ in the Chess game of governments.

Through the work of Black community organizations, the asylum seekers were brought to pastor Judith James’ church in North York. Once Olivia Chow took office, she worked with Premier Ford to secure $97 million in housing assistance for these newcomers from the Federal Government. Chow gave credit to the Black community and other refugee organizations for moving the federal and provincial governments to act.

Many have wondered if the Black African asylum seekers, had they been white, would have been treated so terribly.

How has the DJC been involved in this crisis?

On July 18th a member of the JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, inclusion) working group of the DJC Social Justice Committee went to Peter St. to talk with the newcomers and ask what they needed. The JEDI group purchased and delivered 60 mats, organized and handed out pizzas, water and other food, spoke to the security agents assigned to the group of newcomers and gave the agents the refugees’ list of requested toiletries. This group of Black African refugees escaped their home countries because of their activism, their sexual orientation, and their anti-government political views. They were unsafe and had to leave their families, friends and communities in order to survive.

We will continue to challenge racist and discriminatory policies, laws and procedures through antiracist work and action. We invite everyone at the DJC to vigilantly identify and root out conscious and unconscious racism in both ourselves, and our communities. As Jews, it is so important to remember that we too were told None is Too Many in our own history of trying to enter Canada. Now we must ‘pay it forward’.

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