Montréal has always been an immigration crossroads in Canada. In the last several months, the land surrounding the border crossings around the city has become a crossing point for migrants who fear their refugee status will be revoked by the United States. In July thousands of Haitian migrants crossed the border after hearing that President Trump might revise the U.S. immigration policy on refugees and “illegal” immigrants. These Haitians had left their island following the destructive hurricanes of 2010.
All three levels of government are now responding and many social organizations and churches are helping meet the needs of those who have left their home behind. One of these is a Mennonite Brethren Haitian church from Montréal, L’Assemblée de la Grâce. Pastor Westerne Joseph is leading a concerted relief effort, along with other MB churches of Québec, to help the Haitian families get homes, furniture and eventually jobs.
What about MCC? One of the participants in our MCC Summerbridge program (a summer program for students serving among their church and community) was involved in relief for Haitian migrants. Ellen Wang is a Québécoise born in Taiwan. She arrived in Québec at the age of 13, she had to learn French, integrate into school and make new friends in a foreign culture. Her faith in God was a decisive element of her ability to overcome her fears and sense of helplessness. Today Ellen attends the St-Laurent MB Church, in Montréal, and was doing the Summerbridge program when the migrant crisis started. In collaboration with a Mennonite church from Montréal, L’Église HochMa, she spent five days welcoming and helping Haitians in their quest for the refugee status. As many speak only creole, she assisted them with filling out forms and channeling them to social networks and organizations.
This obviously reminded her of her own experience as a young immigrant who knew nothing of Québec culture and society. Reflecting on her now very fortunate situation, Ellen feels grateful for the opportunity to share her experience and to be a blessing for people who, just like her, needed help and compassion. She now understands how her personal ordeal has become a valuable way to relate to others.
Ellen was also impressed with the work accomplished by Haitian Québécois volunteers. As many newcomers tend to hold an idealized view of Canada, help and advice from people already accustomed to the Quebec society and culture are essential. When assisting Haitian migrants with filling out government forms, our Summerbridger realized that churches, especially Haitian churches, also play a central role in helping refugees.
News of Haitian newcomers also raised fears about employment, culture and criminality. Some even hold the misconception that the migrants had illegally crossed the border. Yet, international law acknowledges the legitimacy for endangered or dispossessed people to seek refuge in another country.
As Christians living in a peaceful and very prosperous country, we need to be reminded that the Bible teaches us not to take our privileges for granted. God has constantly prompted his people to remember their plight as refugees, foreigners, then as slaves, in Egypt, and to act with benevolence towards the poor, the widow and the orphan. MCC strives to embody this principle of humble generosity towards immigrants. By contributing to and taking part in MCC initiatives, you are responding to God’s invitation to care for those in need, in the name of Christ, for in the eyes of God the least among us has the greatest value.