“Apparently Trudeau is not handling the illegal migration, mostly from the US, very well. Canadians want a more conservative approach,” I said after Vicky brought us a couple of beers. Camp was unusually pensive and thought about a response for a few beats.

“Not sure what they want? More armed border guards along the 7000km, mostly open border and how do you stop them walking into Canada, claiming refugee status? Many of them have no IDs or papers, either tossed them or lost them. You can’t turn them back since the US will not let them back in and you can’t shoot them and you can’t ignore them.”

“When Trudeau tweeted that ‘all those fleeing persecution, terror and war are welcome, regardless of faith’ he scored an own goal since at the same time Trump told those with temporary status to leave. So they came to Canada.”

“Yes, we now have more illegal asylum seekers then legal ones,” Camp said, “and it’s not getting better. It seems that the rule of law has broken down and the process has been completely derailed. There was already a backlog of legal claims which now has exploded with the influx of illegal claimants. The waiting list today is up to 20 months for a claim to be heard.”

“The federal government says ‘we’re dealing with a challenge’while the conservative opposition calls it a crisis,” I said.

“Globally we’re nowhere near crisis level,” Camp said. “Only 0.2% of the worldwide refugee population has ended up in Canada according to the UNHCR. Transfer that number to the Sunshine Coast with a population of say 30’000; that would be 60. I don’t think that constitutes a crisis. Globally the refugee population rose to 25 million last year, half are children, the highest number since WWII. On a percentage basis we’re not in the top ten and for that matter neither is Germany. Sweden received 170’000 claims last year, which in Canada would be the equivalent of 600’000. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are the top three destinations and in those countries the unprecedented influx of refugees is a crisis.”

“How do you know all this?” I asked.

“Well I get most of that from this article in the Globe and Mail from last week. Here it is.” Camp shoved the paper in front of me. While I concentrated on the article he focused on his pint.

“It says here that there is nothing illegal if someone crosses the border by whichever means is taken or goes to a port of entry. The term ‘illegal border crossers’ stigmatizes people as law-breakers when there is nothing unlawful at the point of entry. So what’s the fix? How can this be addressed without appearing xenophobic or cruel?” I asked, shaking my head.

“Trying to cut the wait time in half by some means would be a good start,” Camp said.

“And separating refugees from immigrants and migrants in the public’s mind would be another step.”

“You two ready for a refill?” Vicky asked. “You seem awfully busy. What is it this week that keeps you two so agitated?”

“Refugees,” Camp said, handing her his empty glass, “and I don’t mean the song by Tom Petty,” Camp said.

Vicky looked perplexed. “I don’t know any refugees personally,” she said. “Do you?”

“Not really,” I had to admit, “but apparently it’s a calamity in Ontario and Quebec.”

“I have to feel sorry for anyone running away from their home and country for whatever reason. I can’t even imagine what that’s like.”

“You’re right Vicky, none of us do. We travel around the world as tourists and avoid places of conflict. Refugees escape those places and then are treated as outcasts wherever they land.”

Sad New World

We live in the best part of the world I thought to myself as I walked along the pebbly beach towards our village by the sea and my weekly chin wag with my pal Campbell, simply Camp to all of us. I was early, worried that we wouldn’t get our usual table because of all the summer traffic. I needn’t have worried because Rosie, like Vicky, knew our habits and was holding the spot. I sat down, ordered and there was Camp walking in, his shoulders a bit slumped and his head slightly inclined, not his usual forward and upright stance. I immediately knew what ailed him. England lost against Croatia and even if he didn’t admit it, he had secretly been hoping for England, The Three Lions, to bring home the golden cup.

“Sorry about the loss,” I said as soon as he sat down.

He gave me a surprised look and then the quarter dropped. “Ah, yes, but you can’t win if you can’t kick the ball at the goal,” he said, shaking his head in sorrow.

Just then Rosie arrived with our pints. “Why so glum,” she asked. “Did you know that we now have Happy Hour in the summer. Two for one. And you two lucky guys just made it in time.”

“Fantastic,” Camp said, regaining some of his old composure.

I tried to change the subject towards something positive. “It’s amazing that all 12 teenagers and their coach have been brought to safety by a spectacular rescue operation in Thailand. I can’t believe that it took over 5 hours to bring each of the kids through 2.5 km of murky cold water and tight dark passages. This is surely a good news story,” I said.

“Yes, it’s fantastic and heroic,” Camp said but then added: “What on earth were 12 ill equipped teenagers and a young coach doing so far into an underground cave? Trying to find the arc of the covenant? A rite of passage? Anyway, you’re right, we’re all very happy they’re safe. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this was a welcome distraction from the usual smorgasbord of miserable news.”

Boy, was he in a foul mood. “Like what?” I said, “Merkel’s fight against the rise of the neo fascists or Trumps pick of supreme court judge or his latest verbal gymnastics at the NATO summit and in England or his ludicrous trade tirades or more importantly: how about those devasting floods in Japan or the sauna like temperatures in Montreal.”

“Yes, yes, all of the above but I just read the latest stats on refugees by the UNHCR.”

“That sounds uplifting,” I said with a whiff of sarcasm knowing that I was in for one of Camp’s lectures. Those usually made him feel better in inverse proportion to his audience.

“Just to clarify the refugee part: According to the report, one out of every hundred humans is on the run from war, famine or persecution, in other words a fugitive and potential refugee and asylum seeker in a safer part of the world. All together about 66 million people but the impression that the rich countries are the most impacted is simply wrong. About 85% have fled to countries close to home like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey but 3 out of 5 fugitives have remained in their own country but fled conflict zones.” Camp was on his soapbox, finger wagging and nose in the air.

“It’s a sad world when we start talking about closing boarders and building fences, going back to a medieval model of fortresses mentality,” I said. “Considering that all of North America’s ancestry came from Europe and other parts of the world in search of a better life. How quickly we forget and how convenient to blame the victims.”

“It’s about sharing responsibility,” Camp carried on, “and about finding common solutions. We should be concentrating on solving the causes of wars instead of managing the dire consequences but there goes Trump calling for doubling military spending as if there weren’t enough weapons in this world already.”

I couldn’t argue with that. “Closer to home we are not doing a great job either,” I said, staring into my empty beer. Vicky would have sensed that moment, but Rosie needed to be signalled with the customary V sign for a refill. “I was in town the other day on Commercial, known to be a trendy, fun neighbourhood full of cafes and funky stores but not so much anymore. The old hood seemed a bit downtrodden and stressed. And then I took the # 20 bus along East Hastings, that sad corridor of human misery. Everybody should take a ride on that bus once a year to see what I mean. It is depressing and infuriating how many people there are just barely existing. While stopped at a red light I watched three geezers dressed in Salvation Army fashion share a joint on a bench. That was one of the brighter sights.”

Rosie put down a couple of free and happy pints in front of us, which helped considerably to improve the mood.

“When is Vicky back?” Camp asked a bit offhandish.

“She’s due back next week, but you’ll have to put up with me for the summer,” Rosie said, giving me a conspiratorial wink.

“Oh, that’s great, I didn’t mean it to sound like I prefer Vicky. In fact, I love both of you,” Camp warbled and wiggled.

“And the feeling is mutual,” Rosie said, “You remind me of my dad. Mind you he ran away when I was a young teen.”

Camp was going to say something, but then he thought better of it.

“May you always have love in your hearts and beer in your belly,” Rosie said.

“We’ll drink to that,” I laughed.