They demand, among other things, an inquiry “into the causes for, and consequences of, the lack of what we believe to be a clear dereliction on basic governmental duties and responsibilities’’
By Lincoln Depredine
We hereby call upon the Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal governments to urgently address this humanitarian crisis.’’ dereliction on basic governmental duties and responsibilities
By Lincoln DePradine
No longer is the plight of African refugees and asylum seekers, who were left homeless and sleeping on the streets of downtown Toronto in rain and sweltering heat, dominating national news in Canada.
Their situation was alleviated when, in July, Black community members – including church leaders – mobilized and organized to provide the Africans with temporary shelter, toiletries, food stuff and other items.
Religious institutions, primarily Revivaltime Tabernacle (RTT) Worldwide Ministries, Dominion Church International, and Pilgrim Feast Tabernacles, have been playing a leading role in housing, feeding and offering general care for the more than 600 men and women and children, with little or no support from none of the three levels of government – city, provincial or federal.
The Black-led churches describe the current situation as “untenable’’ and “unsustainable’’, with expenses running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It is with great disappointment that we witness the lack of comprehensive assistance and proactive measures from the authorities responsible for ensuring the well-being of all residents in our city and province,’’ the Canadian Black Clergies and Allies (CBCA) said in a release issued ahead of a news conference hosted by a group of church leaders.
“The resilience and compassion displayed by the congregations of Revivaltime Tabernacle, Dominion Church, and Pilgrim Feast deserve commendation and recognition,’’ CBCA said. “However, the burden placed upon these organizations is unsustainable,’’ it added. “We hereby call upon the Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal governments to urgently address this humanitarian crisis.’’
CBCA demanded, among other things, an inquiry “into the causes for, and consequences of, the lack of what we believe to be a clear dereliction on basic governmental duties and responsibilities’’; and also an undertaking from the City of Toronto and the provincial and federal governments that they will “reimburse RTT, Dominion Church, Pilgrim Feast, along with any and all other organizations that have endured financial strains’’.
Not only is reimbursement being sought but the churches are asking for millions that they can utilize to construct permanent housing.
“If you’re not going to take care of our people, we’ll take care of them. Let us buy land, let us buy real estate, and we’ll take care of them if you’re not going to,’’ said Pastor Judith James of RTT, which was the first of the churches to open its doors to accommodate more than 200 African refugees. “People treat their pets better than they’ve treated our community.”
James was one of the speakers at last Friday’s news conference at which a government apology also was demanded for the “inhumane treatment’’ meted out to the African refugees and asylum seekers.
In addition, say Black clergy representatives, the Africans ought to be treated with the same compassion and care given to refugees from other countries in times of crisis, as was done for the Ukrainians, Afghans and Syrians.
“People continue to need to eat. People continue to need spiritual and psychological and emotional support,’’ Pastor Eddie Jjumba of the Dominion Church International told reporters.
“We have stretched the church volunteers, the community volunteers, the people that are giving donations. We have stretched them beyond imagination.”
The case of the African refugees and asylum seekers has reached “crisis level’’ and immediate government intervention is required to provide “interim programming to address all medical and mental health concerns of the men and women within the care of these churches’’, said the CBCA, whose mission “envisions a Canada that champions equity, unity, and justice.’’
According to CBCA, “through collaboration and advocacy, we strive to dismantle barriers, amplify voices, and pave the way for positive transformation’’.