To Stephen Harper : Let’s talk refugees.

Dear Stephen Harper,

When my parents came to Canada, they were in no way the people they are now. My father was a promising young student from Chongqing University, come over on a grant to do some teaching and research. My mother, at the time, was working as a teaching assistant in China. Neither of them had much to their names except their hopes for a good life, and the idea of maybe one day starting a family, if things got better.

When my parents had me, they had no idea that I would be a writer. I was born in Scarborough Grace Hospital, on the first snow of the year, so they named me 贾雪儿,which means “snow child.” I grew up and took to books immediately. It was our beautiful country that helped me to do that.

Today, when I see the “problem” of refugees coming from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia, I see more than what you see. I see engineers, doctors, teachers, mothers, fathers, poets, musicians and spiritual healers. I see what raised me. I see my parents. And I see me.

And the problem with turning away from the future, Mr. Harper, is that the future will always find a place to grow. Whether we welcome it with open arms or not. I believe that the problem that is facing us, then, is not a question of, “How many do we take in?” or even, “How many can we afford to take in?” But rather, “When these writers, when these poets, grow up — because they will grow up, whether in themselves or in us — and are writing the history of what happened today, what will that history be?” Will it be one of justice? Or will it be the story of a mute man that couldn’t find the words to put human lives over engineered fear?

I want to make something very clear. The most important issue facing our country today is not a military threat from ISIS. Nor is it any form of terrorism against the state. The most important issue facing our country today is our own lack of response to human crisis, which has been born from a deadly seed of distrust, blindness and egotism. There can be no help for a nation built on this: it will not survive itself. Because the people it turns away are the same as the people who have created it. Said another way, Mr. Harper: we are killing our own mothers and fathers.

So let it be known today that the dreamers you have dismissed, the writers you have muzzled, the geniuses you have killed, are speaking back from the grave. We can be driven from our homes, but we cannot be driven from this earth, this land. We are real. Let it be known that does not live on in history books, lives on in folktale, in legend, in spoken myth, spun from the golden mouths of people like us. We are spinning the future. And you do not want us against you. Because we are you.

So let the country that we build together,
Be one that knows who she is.

Let her be strong as I remember,
Bold as I remember, free and rejoicing in herself,

For the small amount of time she will be on this earth.
Let it be a good time in the memories of all of us.

And, Mr. Harper,
Let there be all of us.

Bravely Yours.
M. JIA

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