In the early afternoon of March 14, 2017, Professor Graham Hudson of the criminology department at Ryerson University, as well as Melita Kuburas, now the associate managing editor of Metro Newspapers and a graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism, class of 2006, addressed a room of Ryerson journalism students regarding the reality of the laws surrounding migration and security for refugees arriving in Canada.
For Professor Hudson, his talk was almost strictly on the critical side of the regulations refugees and “asylum seekers,” as he preferred calling them, must face entering Canada. Through mass media exposure, Hudson admitted that the difficulty of their journeys has been, and should continue to be, well documented by news sources, for their life-threatening and strenuous journeys to escape the grasp of death in their home countries is something overly traumatic for anybody to face.
Although, after a question from a student in the audience quizzed him on why then that journalists and activists in the fight for refugees’ place in our cities use arguments regarding financial and community benefits over the obvious moral and sympathetic arguments for their rightful protection, Hudson replied that unfortunately Municipal and Provincial branches of government, as well as people in positions of power to make decisions on the well-being of refugees in cities like Toronto aren’t as interested in the compassionate side of the debate.
Across from Professor Hudson was the personification of the sympathetic argument, as Ryerson alumni and success story, Melita Kuburas, has been living the life of a refugee since she was nine years old.
Fleeing from northern Bosnia after Serbian forces began shelling her life as she knew it in her little village of Biljani, Kuburas made the life-changing trip to Toronto with her father, Senad, mother Edina, and brother, Meldun.
As she spoke, there was a slight wavering of her voice when recalling the journey to the city many of us in the crowd call home already. It was clear that she was the perfect example to disprove the ignorant debate that ‘refugees take advantage and freeload off of our country’s benefits’. As a professional, working woman in our society that has fully embraced the Canadian philosophies of living that we pride ourselves as a country on, Kuburas couldn’t be further from being called a freeloader.
Professor Hudson added that because of the social barriers immigrants to this country face everyday, actually it is citizens born here with higher social status that are reaping the benefits of having immigrants move to cities like Toronto. As perfectly legal migrants to Canada work perfectly legal jobs and all pay taxes, yet experience many impediments to accessing services such as healthcare, police, and social work, it is in actuality the refugees all across our city that are being freeloaded off of.
The presentation ended to a genuine applause, and from my seat in the crowd, it ended with a new appreciation of what immigrants are doing for Toronto-born citizens like myself, and not what we must provide for them so as they can escape the dangers of their native countries.