Disabled Refugees – How can we help?

I read an article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper by Tara Carmen,  Disabled refugees languish in new home. The story is about  two sisters from Syria who have a neurological condition that seriously affects mobility. They spend most of their days sitting on a carpet in an apartment  which is obviously not in their best interest both physically and mentally. Despite the best efforts of family, many challenges arise every day in order to support these young women. Where they are living and the cost to do so is not the best situation for anyone involved.

I knew that Canada would have difficulty meeting the needs of the Syrian refugees but this is a whole other level of difficulty. I have witnessed within my own family the amount of work it takes to access services for children with disabilities – as they grow so too does the need for special equipment. Many charitable organizations help families in our communities to meet some of those needs but it is never enough.

We can’t discriminate against persons with disabilities because Canada has to be prepared for a multitude of approved refugees. The question remains, “How prepared are we for those with physical and psychological challenges?”  It is hard to get appointments for specialists and therapist for Canadians so I’m curious as to how we will open up access for refugees.  Individuals, local community groups and government programs need to look realistically at where they are at and what they can honestly provide.

To refugees we are the land of opportunity, a safe haven and a country with plenty to go around but that is not the whole story. We have people here who have experienced trauma and can’t access help. We have new immigrants who still struggle with culture shock, motivation and an openness to learning. We have cut our funding to programs that taught English and have school districts that are overwhelmed by their existing students.

Let’s talk for a moment about what it might be like for a family that is new to our country. To be the father and husband that is no longer the bread-winner or a mother who doesn’t even know the first place to look for support for her children. From being possibly an educated person who is now told their credentials are meaningless. Think about what it would be like to know that the ideas you expressed, the tributes that you had and the accomplishments you cherished are no longer validated. All of this can take an emotional toll on refugees and immigrant families.

There is so much for refugees to comprehend in a short amount of time and for families who have a person with a disability to support there is even more to consider.

For these sisters it is very likely they feel a sense of relief to be away from the bombings and other threats to their life, but clearly they need to be in a better home that meets their personal needs. This is where we drop the ball. We have failed countless times to provide for those that truly need specialized housing and support and up to this point this situation is no different.

Yes, I believe our province has to step up and take care of its citizens who lives are challenged by disabilities as well as support refugees and immigrants. The question I always have though is, “How are we planning to execute and pay for this?”



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