UJPO-Toronto Rosh Hashone and Yom Kippur 2015 Address

September 14, 2015

Delivered by David Abramowitz

The image of Syrian child Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the shores of Turkey has evoked an outpouring of emotion and promises of responses yet to materialize. But after five years of war in Syria all such action both here and internationally is too little too late. Nor is Syria the only hot spot. Think of the already immense problems in Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine.  The fact is that people who are fleeing bombing desperately search for a better life: they (not always successfully) attempt perilous journeys from all over the world – Africa, South and Central Asia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic and its recent Nuremberg-like laws (revoking citizenship and expelling Dominican-born Haitians) to name but a few.

The Harper government and other international aggressors point the finger everywhere but at themselves. The truth is that the death and destruction we are witnessing is the result of murderous imperialist strategies that have at their root the intensification of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. They claim to lead a war on poverty but have converted it into a war on the poor. It is waged on the other side of the globe and also in our own backyards. Black people are gunned down by power-tripping cops gone wild. The justice system shrugs it shoulders accepting the desperate and obvious lies of the perpetrators. It was self defense judges declare. They had no choice they proclaim.  Meanwhile someone’s son, father, husband, mother, wife or daughter is never to return home. In the same vein, Toronto police “card” Black residents without reason and in the name of so-called community policing all of it in appalling violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The pattern is clear. Refugees flee distant countries but in our own communities the same persecution, death and destruction plays out over and over all of it motivated by racism, greed and power lust. The link between life threatening impoverishment here and abroad is never made but we must make it.

The war on the poor often seems perpetual and permanent. But is it? What can we do? What must we do? And what is our responsibility in this tragedy if we do nothing?

Silence is complicity. When Black Lives Matter takes to the streets we must be there. When Idle No More speaks we must listen and stand with them. Refugees looking to make a home amongst us must be welcomed, nurtured and supported rather than consigned to ongoing poverty and destruction.

The UJPO is currently in contact with others with similar concerns and plans to formalize its involvement and action within the next month – stay tuned.

In this New Year, let each of us continue pressing for freedom and economic security for all. Looking away is not an option. Not acting is unforgivable.

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