MCRC - 30 Years of Fostering New Beginnings

Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre

MCRC at 30 and Just Beginning

- Bishop Emeritus F. B. Henry

As we celebrate this important benchmark in the history of CCIS, most of my days are behind me, but my thoughts turn in a particular way to the reality of child migrants and the future – their future. We have made a good beginning. Consequently, I ask everyone to take care of the young, who in a threefold way are defenceless: they are children, they are foreigners, and they have no means to protect themselves.

Children are the first among those to pay the heavy toll of emigration, almost always caused by violence, poverty, environmental conditions, as well as the negative aspects of globalization. Childhood, given its fragile nature, has unique and inalienable needs. Above all else, there is the right to a healthy and secure family environment, where a child can grow under the guidance and example of a father and a mother; then there is the right and duty to receive adequate education, primarily in the family and also in the school, where children can grow as persons and agents of their own future and the future of their respective countries. Indeed, in many areas of the world, reading, writing and the most basic arithmetic is still the privilege of only a few. All children, furthermore, have the right to recreation; in a word, they have the right to be children.

And yet among migrants, children constitute the most vulnerable group, because as they face the life ahead of them, they are invisible and voiceless: their precarious situation deprives them of documentation, hiding them from the world’s eyes; the absence of adults to accompany them prevents their voices from being raised and heard. In this way, migrant children easily end up at the lowest levels of human degradation, where illegality and violence destroy the future of too many innocents, while the network of child abuse is difficult to break up.

In addition to protecting them, we need to integrate them into the mainstream of Canadian life.  

They depend totally on the adult community. Very often the scarcity of financial resources prevents the adoption of adequate policies aimed at assistance and inclusion. As a result, instead of favouring the social integration of child migrants, or programmes for safe and assisted repatriation, there is simply an attempt to curb the entrance of migrants, which in turn fosters illegal networks; or else immigrants are repatriated to their country of origin without any concern for their “best interests”.

The right of governments to control migratory movement and to protect the common good of the nation must be seen in conjunction with the duty to resolve and regularize the situation of child migrants, fully respecting their dignity and seeking to meet their needs especially when they are alone, but also the needs of their parents, for the good of the entire family.

Of fundamental importance is the adoption of adequate national procedures and mutually agreed plans of cooperation between countries of origin and of destination, with the intention of eliminating the causes of the forced emigration of minors.

The question of child migrants must be tackled at its source. Wars, human rights violations, corruption, poverty, environmental imbalance and disasters, are all causes of this problem. Children are the first to suffer, at times suffering torture and other physical violence, in addition to moral and psychological aggression, which almost always leave indelible scars. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, to deal with the causes which trigger migrations in the countries of origin.

Authentic development can be guaranteed for all – boys and girls – who are humanity’s hope. MCRC is a welcomed and needed Calgarian response. Let us continue to walk in the direction of our hope.

Bishop Frederick Henry served as the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary from 1998 to 2017, leaving a significant impact on the local Catholic community and beyond.

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