After weeks of heartbreaking stories and images of children being separated from their families by U.S. border officials, some Canadians are wondering how they can help from up north.
On Facebook, several people have posted open letters to their Members of Parliament, urging the Canadian government to take action. One of them was Leslie Solomonian, a doctor of naturopathic medicine in Toronto.
On Monday, Solomonian posted a status on Facebook, letting her network know she had donated to RAICES, a nonprofit that offers low-cost legal services to immigrant children, families and refugees. The group has almost hit US$6 million in donations.
“I can only assume that the Government of Canada has had something to say about the human rights crisis occurring in the U.S. as immigrant children are cruelly separated from their parents at the border. Not only is it always traumatic to be separated from a loving parent, but these children are being punished for something that is not their fault, but the consequence of circumstance and their parents’ efforts to create a better life for their children,” she wrote in her letter.
Speaking with Global News, Solomonian says it was important for her to raise awareness because she believes children need to be with a loving and trusted caregiver.
“Separating them from their families and placing them in cages is incredibly traumatic. Toxic stress in childhood predisposes to a huge array of negative health outcomes; this has got to be one of the most stressful experiences a child could have,” she explains.
“I can’t even imagine the terror and confusion these kids are experiencing, all because their parents were trying to create a better life for them.”
WATCH: Will some children separated from their parents at US/Mexico border ever be reunited?
It is estimated 2,000 children have been separated from their families over the last six weeks, a policy U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed was not in contravention with U.S. law or the Bible. Children have been placed in cage-like detention facilities as part of a “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal migration.
There has also been pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make comments or at least condemn Trump’s administration’s actions, but as of now, the government has said nothing.
On Monday, Rebecca Nemiroff also posted an open letter to her Member of Parliament Greg Fergus, asking others to do the same.
“As a psychologist who specializes in the effects of childhood trauma, I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the unfolding of events in the U.S. as the Trump government has implemented its ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on illegal immigration. As you know, this has resulted in the abrupt and traumatic separation of over 2000 children from their families in the past few weeks,” she wrote on the social media site.
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“These children have been detained in the most un-nurturing circumstances and are forced to live with uncertainty as to when and if they will ever see their families again. Everything we know about child development tells us that these events will have lasting and devastating effects on these children as well as on their parents.”
Kelly Wharton had done the same.
“Is there nothing that the Canadian government can do? In doing nothing, are you/we only condoning this action? I implore you to bring this matter to the other MPs, bring it to the floor of the House of Commons, and at least discuss possible actions to end this inhumane treatment of people.”
What can Canadians do?
The first thing to do, like these Canadians have done, is to contact your MP with your concerns.
“Contacting their Members of Parliament puts pressure on our own government to take tangible action,” Solomonian explains.
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Next, donate to a reputable organization in the U.S. that is already on the ground working towards reuniting families.
U.S.-based organizations like Kids in Need of Defense, The Florence Project, The ACLU, CARA, and others are mostly offering legal services to those in need, Slate reports. The site has also created an ongoing list with groups looking for financial support.
Awareness is also important, Burnaby Now adds, and from Canada, try organizing a fundraiser or hosting a presentation to get your community involved.
— with files from Rahul Kalvapalle