Joe Clark delivers message at Calgary fundraiser, providing educational needs for students around the world
Terrorism has caused a massive refugee crisis in Syria and Jordan, and Canada needs to step up its humanitarian response. That was former prime minister Joe Clark's message at a recent Calgary fundraiser hosted by the Mennonite Central Committee.
Clark suggested Canadians have been lacking in global leadership, and it's time for the nation to stand firm in its national identity.
"We set a very high standard for ourselves in the past, such as with Ethiopia and the boat people," Clark said. "I think we should take that same standard, and we're not now."
Clark urged the audience to take a look at how Canada used to respond effectively and efficiently to crisis. He said the nation is currently falling dramatically short.
"I know that it's within our power. This isn't entirely a matter of the governments leading, it's a matter of citizens and citizen organizations stepping up."
Calgarians packed the Foothills Alliance Church where more than $80,000 was raised for Global Family, an NGO that works with schools and organizations in 40 different countries to meet the educational needs of children.
As a featured guest speaker, Clark introduced his book, How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change, in which he outlined Canadian assets and the consequences of not using, or even worse, wasting assets.
Some of those assets include Canada's ability to manage and respect diversity and its reputation for being a country and people of fairness. According to Clark, these assets include, "Our multilateral instinct and skill — those will all become more necessary and relevant as ever."
Kirstin Morrell, who attended the event, said she believes that national conversations like these are needed.
"[Clark] was speaking to issues of openness and interaction on a global scale that I think is so important," said Morrell. "If we're going to avoid being pushed into silos and in conflict between those silos internationally then we have to follow his advice and the advice of NGOs, like Global Family, that say 'we have to build bridges, we have to improve living conditions world-wide, we have to invest in young people.'"
Clark added it's tempting to erect walls in the world because of global strife and conflict. But he stressed the need to keep those walls down.
Clark added: "In a world and time where the extent of conflict, and the consequences of conflict are grievous and expanded. We Canadians need also to give more attention to the humanitarian dimension of our international character and capacity.
"The threats are serious and real — Russia and Ukraine, the Islamic State, the tragedy of Ebola, the desecration of holy places in the middle east and the looming crisis of sustainability."
Clark explained Canadians have worked together in the past. He cited Canada's role during the Cold War, and both world wars.
Clark also praised past efforts by Canadian peacekeepers. But today, Clark isn't seeing those same efforts. The focus overseas, he said, has been a military one, not a humanitarian one.
"The refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq is in need of immediate aid. Most of the images we have of those regions are of brutal conflict."
There are two million refuges now in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and over one million citizens displaced.
The world, Clark said, has been "slow to respond."
Abe Janzen, director of the Mennonite Central Committee, said he believes another way citizens can make a global difference is simply by going online and getting involved.
"As so many people here tonight, they can contribute to this type of program. All they have to do is research and sign up."
- By DAYLA BROWN