Protesters stormed the annual meeting of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) in Ottawa, forcing the Canadian Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Monte Solberg, to escape out a back door.
Solberg, a minister in Canada’s Conservative government, was to have been the main speaker for the meeting. CPJ is a public-justice advocacy group with strong ties to the Christian Reformed Church.
“Due to the interruption, Solberg was unable to give his talk to the gathering,” said Harry Kits, CPJ’s executive director and a member of First Christian Reformed Church, Toronto. “We had planned for a respectful dialogue with the minister regarding our concerns about Canada’s refugee system, and we had hoped to highlight our new refugee initiative, Welcome the Stranger, in that context.”
Kits says the disruption caused by the protesters, an unaffiliated group of people calling for an immediate end to all deportations from Canada, resulted in a missed opportunity. “The tactics of the protestors were disrespectful of the minister and disrespectful of the many good people in the room who work diligently in support of refugees and other issues of justice,” said Kits.
Kits is thankful that, despite the incident, the minister has invited CPJ to meet with him again in the near future, giving them a second chance to raise issues of concern.
Through their Welcome the Stranger initiative, CPJ is providing resources and other tools to help the Canadian public create a more welcoming climate for refugees in their communities. For more information, see www.welcomethestranger.ca.
About the Author
Rachel Boehm Van Harmelen is a writer and consultant specializing in communications for nonprofit organizations. She and her husband, Peter, have four children and live in Fall River, Nova Scotia, where they attend All Nations Christian Reformed Church