You can just hear the water.
It laps against the makeshift pier beating a slow, near silent rhythm in stark contrast to the rapid and seemingly thunderous beating of your heart. Only the smell of fear sits heavier on the air than the salt. You look at what the smugglers generously call a boat and see it packed with people, themselves teeming with desperation.
Your child looks up at you, eyes wide, their tiny hand gripping yours tighter looking for some sign everything will be okay. You have nothing.
You know the journey you are subjecting your family to could as easily end their lives as save them. You step in to the boat.
Death may lie in wait on the waves, but it has most certainly swept over the land you are leaving behind. So really what choice do you have?
Try to imagine that. Try to envision what horrors would have to be at your back for you to risk your child’s life. How much death and destruction would you have to be surrounded by before you decided running for your children’s lives, no matter the risk to them, was your only choice?
Emigrants are choosing to leave for a better life. Refugees are trying to save the ones they have. This is what we must remember above all now that the refugee crisis has been brought front and center in Canada with tragic candor.
We have at times in our history been able to transport tens of thousands of refugees to Canada in a single year. We do not lack the resources to do so now. What is missing is only the political will. Our government can mobilize an actual response to this crisis immediately if it decides to.
From floods, to ice storms, to wild fires we have shown ourselves more than capable of responding to disaster within our borders. That this ongoing tragedy lies beyond them does not make it beyond our capability to respond.
We can debate where fault lies, what should have been done before now, or whether a military response should take precedence over a humanitarian one to end this crisis. None of that will help a single family in desperation, struggling to make an impossible choice.
What will is if our government makes the decision now to begin action, and save talk for another day. Decide what resources we need and put them to work to immediately begin the safe passage of as many people as we can. Logistics, documentation and bureaucratic process can all happen once people are here, safely on their way, or as we have in the past we can send staff to begin the process overseas. In the scope of this chaos those are small details, and now is a time for action not applications.
There are more children being loaded on more boats right now. Before the waves tear another child’s hand from his father’s we can act. Before another young life someone tried to save slips below the water and is lost, we can act.
To call ourselves human, never mind Canadian, indeed we must.