A case of refugee envy

img_1058Dear Refugees Fleeing Would-Be American Oppression:

I see on the news that you’ve been crossing illegally from the U.S. into Canada along our vast and largely unprotected border. It’s been happening in Manitoba and it’s been happening in Hemmingford, Quebec, about an hour away from here.

So my question is: Why not Stanstead?

We’re a border community, a pretty famous border community. Surely you’ve heard of us. No? That’s okay, we’ve heard of you. Well, not “you” specifically but the idea of you, the concept of the refugee, and we’re all for it! We’d love to have you illegally enter Stanstead! At least I think we would. But more on that later.

First, though, let me tell you what Stanstead has to offer to fill all your Trump-fleeing needs.

We have a great selection of temporary housing, including several closed churches, a closed school, closed stores, lots of closed places really. As far as resources we can offer, Stanstead has, umm… well, er… we have a new Tim Hortons! Have you seen the Tim Hortons? It’s awesome! I can’t believe Stanstead has a Tim Hortons!

We also have RCMP officers ready to greet you. There’s a long tradition of Mounties in Stanstead. They used to have a detachment here. It closed more than 20 years ago, but the Mounties never really left town, just went undercover, mostly concerned with smuggling.

(Hey, do you suppose the Mounties ever get mixed up and say, “Guess what, Constable Biff, yesterday I caught a snuggler,” and then they get the giggles? No? Well, I would.)

A couple of years ago they converted the old Caisse Populaire into a bunker, and now Stanstead has oodles of highly visible Mounties refusing to make eye contact as they drive around in their RCMP SUVs. (“RCMP SUV”: sounds like a Canadian forensic crime show, don’t you think?) I’m pretty sure they’ve been bored out of their epaulets, so I bet they’d be relieved, possibly overjoyed, to finally have something to do around here.

In other words, it would be great for everyone if you would cross our border. I mean, what does Hemmingford have that we don’t have? Come on over! We’re ready to welcome you.

At least I think we are.

You see, like a lot of Canadians, we in Stanstead believe we are tolerant of people regardless of their race or religion. Of course, like a lot of Canadians, especially rural Canadians, we’ve never really been tested. Once you get here, you’ll notice pretty quickly that Stanstead is awfully white. Our black community consists of .1 percent of the population. And by “community,” I mean a house. I literally know where the black community lives.

We had a Chinese couple purchase the local dépanneur a few years ago. It was certainly remarked upon, but the same was true when our grocery store changed from an “IGA” to a “Marché Tradition.” We’re kind of starved for excitement.

So we assume we’d be tolerant of people of different races or religions, even though we have very little actual experience, let alone with refugees. For us, the refugee crisis is something we’ve been able to support in the abstract because it’s been a humanitarian crisis far away. Canadians support it in principle. If people start flooding our borders, however, we will truly see what we are made of. I’m confident we here in Stanstead would be made of good stuff.

But then I read that, according to an Angus Reid poll, 1 in 4 Canadians want Canada to impose its own Trump-style travel ban and that 41 percent say Canada’s refugee target is too high.

Wait a sec. Is 1 of those 4 in Stanstead? Are there people in my town who would tell those refugees to go back where they came from?  Are there people in my neighbourhood who would attend a vile anti-Islam rally? Are there people I know who lack compassion and prey on fear? 1 in 4…

Anyway, we’d love to have you! I think it would be great for Stanstead, especially if you decided to stay. Can you imagine, we would then be able to say we have a Somali community. We could even direct people to the Somali community’s house.

We’re ready for you. I think. I hope.

See you soon. Stay warm.


P.S. If you cross the border at Church Street, please be careful not to damage the flower pots. They’re quite lovely in the summer.





About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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34 Responses to A case of refugee envy

  1. HonieBriggs says:

    I think I must have been Canadian in a previous life. Perhaps even a Stansteadianite, is that what you’re called? But definitely not the 1 in 4. No, I’m sure I was one of the other 3. Your writing gives me a reason to read.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks very much. I have hope that Canada will manage this pressure well. The world is changing, and we may need to sacrifice some of our luxury.
      Stansteader, I think, although it French it’s better: “Stansteadois.”

  2. As with all good humor, you make some salient points to ponder. I am often amazed at the people who protest immigrants, but those same people live in towns where the immigrant “community” lives in one house. Like most irrational blame, it is often off the mark. Unlike your humor, of course.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      There’s a lot going on in this piece (and remember I publish it originally in our local paper, so some of it makes more sense to them). My town is barely hanging on and is denial about a lot of stuff. There’s a disconnect sometimes between who we say we are and who we actually are. So, yes, there’s some seriousness behind the humour today.

  3. Joel Azevedo says:

    Love it Ross, love your sense of humour. but really are we ready, lol.

  4. Hmmmm….sounds like those 10 people could make a quite dangerous rally. I hear Ms. Steinschvitz could use some excitement these days…

  5. Pat Marr Parent says:

    Thank you Ross, for this light hearted yet serious look at the issues at hand ! I believe we would be welcoming of others in need , in our town. Perhaps more importantly, maybe they could teach us a thing or two about being grateful for what we have and the opportunity for regrowth. Our, all but closed town has a lot to learn about starting over, and is in desperate need of a few lessons , quite possibly taught to us by the real fighters of hardship.
    Never stop writing Ross 🙂

  6. Marc Stratton says:

    Thanks, Ross. Always have a big smile on my face after reading your work. To me, there’s not a better way to get a point across, than using humour!!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Tim Hortons is the only reason you need.

  8. List of X says:

    I guess if your town doesn’t have any refugees, you could take a few families to pop the refugee cherry, so to speak. As a one-time refugee myself, I can tell you that refugees are neither as great nor as terrible as people make them out to be. Just make sure to diversify, don’t take all from the same country – from my own immigrant community experience, when we’re dispersed, we’re okay, but when we get closely packed into the same area, it turns into the same country we ran away from.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      That’s quite insightful. But then you get into the whole assimilation vs accommodation debate. Melting pot vs multiculturalism. Either way, it’s not going to be easy. But my town, in all seriousness, could use new bodies. Unfortunately, there are no jobs to fill either.

      • List of X says:

        I don’t think that assimilation and multiculturalism are mutually exclusive – it’s not realistic to expect someone who spent decades immersed in one culture to discard all of it at once and fully embrace another, but it should be realistic to expect a newcomer to at least accept some of the ways of the new place (“when in Rome…”).
        Kind of like a low temperature melting pot that softening the edges but preserves the core, so we’re at least not poking each other with the sharp edges.

  9. Great piece, some bite without going over the top. It takes nerve, ‘cuz not everyone agrees and you become the standing nail. Good for you. Good for Canada that we are 1 in 4 not 2 in 4. But we can do better. We Mennos (among many others) have for years jumped on airplanes to go and find refugees to help – we give money, we swing hammers. Now the world has reorganized and offers free home delivery! To abuse the metaphor, maybe the “Free cheezy bread!” can be the influx of diversity and grateful newcomers with a hard-earned and not-soon-forgotten love of their new country. (Like Mennos had in 1874-1920 when we exited Russia. Manitoba didn’t like us much then, either.)

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I think, like X’s comment above, it’s important to not be idealistic or fanatical on either side of this issue. We have to be realistic, and that means reason paired with compassion. I hope that prevails. As for me, I’m all words at the moment. I look forward to being tested.

  10. michael nerenberg says:

    Where’s a refugee when you need one? And when you’ve got one, what do you do with them? Refugees – can’t live with ’em, can,t live without ’em. .Sweet read, Ross. Our old friend would have been seriously proud!

  11. Were it not for the fact that we are miles and miles from a border I’d put up ads on kijiji welcoming American refugees to stay with us. Saskatchewan is totally amped to welcome them.

  12. We’re Americans, you need to appeal to our stomachs. What amount of Canadian bacon are we talkin’ about there? Will there be maple syrup involved? The Poutine, does it come with cheddar or gouda cheese curds? And the beer….

  13. ksbeth says:

    glad you are one of the standsteady tribe. we need more like you to help those who need it

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  15. You in Stanstead wouldn’t last two seconds in Washington DC. Guess what that makes you? Superior human beings.

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