Emigrating to a new country is a courageous act. For many of us, our ancestors came to Canada to escape hardship, and often persecution, usually at great personal cost. My father spoke of the paternalistic treatment his parents faced when they arrived in Canada from Poland and many of you will have listened to similar stories from your own family and friends.

Over the years, it was my impression that the Canadian governments and their authorities have worked to improve the experience of newcomers to Canada but I learned something this morning that makes me believe that we are going backwards.

I learned today that families are being detained across Canada, in buildings with bars on the windows and surrounded by high razor-wired fences, as they await news of whether they will be allowed to remain in Canada or be deported. The CBC morning report I watched showed newsreel of clean spaces. I heard a Minister of the Crown state that most of the detention centres are “former 3-star hotels”, but I also learned that, except for short periods, families are separated and, in particular, children from their fathers.

Children are impressionable – assisting children who have been impressed in their early lives with terrible circumstances has occupied much of my adult working life and to live in a detention centre, separated from one of your parents, is a terrible circumstance. I worry about the impact of this early life experience on these children – not to mention that the stress this causes their parents will also have a negative impact.

I have many more questions about the treatment of these families: Do they have access to health care? Do they have access to legal advice? Who said it was alright to do this?

As the granddaughter of immigrants, I have been sensitized to the fears of people arriving in a new country hoping to find a better life for themselves and their children, hoping to find a new home.

Whether they stay or they leave, what will these children think of Canada when they grow up?

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