LETTERS: Be proactive with refugees

We are seeing the effects of an aging population with an overall declining population.

We are seeing the effects of an aging population (hospital construction) with an overall declining population (closing schools).

Japan has faced this situation for many years and it is accentuated by their lack of immigration. The Japanese economy has stagnated for decades as a result.

At the same time we are witnessing the largest displacement of human beings since the Second World War as refugees flee Syria and Afghanistan by the millions. These people are just like us. In their home countries they are engineers, business people, chefs; they don’t want to leave but they have to protect their families.

I think Germany is one of the few countries to really understand what a unique opportunity this massive migration presents. Germany is experiencing a huge shortage of skilled workers and also seeing aging issues in their economy.

The Germans are beginning a massive screening process on arriving refugees and they realize that many of those people arriving with nothing are skilled workers and can be easily trained to learn new skills. Germany, unlike France, realizes that the faster these people are trained and start working, the better of everyone will be. The future of Germany’s productivity may lie with these people.

I think Penticton should follow Germany’s lead. With schools closing, we have the infrastructure to create large training centres for these screened, skilled refugees. We could become a training hub for Western Canada. The idea would be the refugees arrive here and receive English as a Second Language (ESL) training as well as trades and other vocational courses. After their training, they would go to regions around Western Canada that offer employment opportunities.

The Canadian government mentioned they want to focus on refugees who are in Lebanon. This would suit us well. The Beqaa Valley of western Syria and Lebanon is a large wine growing area and is probably not dissimilar to the Okanagan. Refugees from this area might find a familiarity here.

To be successful, effective screening must be done. We would look for families with a skilled breadwinner. Once the breadwinner is trained, they may go to where the jobs are and leave their families here, as many in the oil patch do now. This would fill our schools again with children of appreciative folks, glad of the second chance.

If you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and you feed them for life.

Let’s be proactive and give these refugees a second chance by establishing a Training Centre which will give these folks the training to succeed in our economy.

Let’s do our share in dealing with this human catastrophe.

Brian Hughes, Penticton


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