I cannot sit back in good conscience while the world my generation built is left to turn feral in the hands of right-wing populists and indifferent capitalists …
As the northern hemisphere wends its way into summer, my sense of calm has been broken by the anguished cries of refugees the world over who have been denied their human right to a life free of war or poverty. Maybe it’s my advanced age and knowing that I will be dead soon that makes me angry and resolved not to remain quiet.
I cannot sit back in good conscience while the world my generation built is left to turn feral in the hands of right-wing populists and indifferent capitalists. Too many people died and too many lives were cut short or mangled by the Great Depression and the Second World War for me to accept that the architecture of fascism being built by Donald Trump along with demagogues in Europe and Asia should be allowed to go unchallenged.
I am a very old man whose only weapon is that I have endured the catastrophic history of the 20th century and I am not afraid to tell younger generations what I saw and experienced in my youth. I want my memories to be a testament of what must not happen again, especially when it comes to the treatment of those who flee their countries because of war or persecution.
So even though I am close to 100 years old, I travelled two days ago to Ottawa because I think Canada has shown leadership when it comes to the current refugee crisis. I came to meet with Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts because I wanted to explain why, at the age of 95, I am making the refugee crisis my last stand.
In this meeting I was asked how my journey towards refugee advocacy started. For me, it began near dusk on a day near the end of April 1945 when my RAF unit made camp close to the Dutch-German border.
In the distance, artillery rumbled, sounding to my ear like thunder did when it struck the moors, miles from my mother’s one-up-one-down house in an ugly part of Halifax. The fragrance of spring flowers coming into bloom jarred against the remnants of war that surrounded me, from burnt-out German vehicles to the bloated corpses of horses that lay at the side of the roadway.
All of Europe ached from the pain of battle, hunger, injury, loss, and death. We were a generation bleeding out from the madness of fascism that had butchered a continent. Humanity, however, hadn’t deserted my generation even if the war had stolen our innocence …