Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 2, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Len and Tareq Hadhad

Twenty years ago, we were all sitting on the edges of our seats wondering if the world was going to grind to a halt as we entered a new millennium. Y2K was the shorthand term for “the year 2000” and became the moniker for the end of civilization as we knew it. Many computer programmers and doomsday soothsayers predicted that computers around the world would crash as the year changed from 1999 to 2000. I remember clearly being at a house party out in the countryside which looked down over our small town. We all stood by a large window and wondered if everything would go black. It didn’t. One suspects that many companies got rich on the backs of our angst as businesses and individuals were scurrying to do major upgrades prior to the predicted cataclysm.

It used to be that the years flew by. As I creep ever closer to 70, I now watch the decades go by with alarming speed. The more we try and slow things down, the faster things seem to go.

I will forego a rundown of historic events of the past twenty years. I’ll leave that to the media folks who will deliver up an orgy of information on 911, the first black president of the United States and climate change.

The world remains a troubled place. Some things never change. Man’s inhumanity to man has been a constant theme in world history. These days, it seems that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket but is it really any worse than it was five, ten, twenty or fifty years ago? The internet and the advent of social media have completely changed the landscape and now almost anybody in the world can find out what is happening anywhere in the world instantly. The media and many individual people seem to thrive on a steady diet of bad news.

I know my faithful readers are breathlessly waiting for me to weigh in on my best “feel good” story of the past 20 years. Actually, my guess is that you are trying to recover from Christmas and New Year’s celebrations and couldn’t give a damn what I think.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), an unprecedented 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and that 37,000 people are forced to flee their homes every day. This may possibly be one of the greatest humanitarian crisis in history and it only seems to be getting worse.

In my tiny corner of the world in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, the Syrian refugee crisis caught the attention of a handful of local people five years ago. Like many people at the time, I was completely unaware of what was happening in Syria and would have been hard pressed to find it on a map of the world. A committee was formed called SAFE – Syria Antigonish Families Embrace with the goal of trying to bring a Syrian family to Canada.

The first person to arrive in our town was Tareq Hadhad (pictured above). Tareq was studying to become a doctor when his country exploded. The family home and chocolate business were destroyed, forcing them to spend several years in a refugee camp. I met Tareq a few days after his arrival when he joined our family on Boxing Day for his first street hockey game. The Hadhad story has been well documented. His parents and several siblings arrived shortly after. They started making chocolate in their home which they sold at the Farmer’s Market. Since then, their company “Peace by Chocolate” has become an international success story and over the past four years, Antigonish has welcomed more than ten families from Syria.

There are many marginalized people living in the world maybe none more so than aboriginals. The travesty of the treatment of indigenous people is not restricted to Canada. It is a global phenomenon. I have been interested in Canada’s north for a long time and like so many Canadians, have scratched my head (to the point of baldness!) trying to make sense of the persistent problems. Many of you feel exasperated knowing that billions of taxpayers dollars have been spent trying to address the problems in the north with little or no apparent success. It is a perplexing and frustrating situation.

I have read extensively about the north. I have attended numerous lectures by indigenous speakers and watched scores of documentaries. One of the best depictions of the north (and a true story) is the movie “The Grizzlies”.

It would take me too long to explain in this space how I found myself flying to the northern Quebec town of Kangiqsujuaq on November 6, 2019. You’ll have to wait for the book! I am teaching school in an Inuit community. I am witnessing first hand the challenges faced by these beautiful people. I will continue to observe, learn and write. I am not going to solve the problems of the north but maybe in some small way, I can help inform and educate people.

My sincerest hope for the next decade is that we all try to show more tolerance for newcomers to Canada and that we demonstrate empathy for our indigenous people.


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