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Email: Gareth.chantler@gmail.com

Twitter: @GarethChantler

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About Stories from Syria

“The start of solidarity is to correct the narrative.”

– Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami, in Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

“Real life is in the little stories,” I tell the journalist. “How could it be any other way under these circumstances?”

– Samar Yazbek, in A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution

Humanising humans

Stories from Syria values people narrating their own stories in their own words. Since western knowledge of Syria is lacking, and because humanising Syrians seems like a task still ahead of us, this project considers providing detail and context to be a good in and of itself.

Detail humanises and context makes for better questions, though neither guarantees answers. Stories from Syria therefore does not privilege ‘finding answers’ or ‘forming an opinion’ as goals through which everything must then be structured. It might be that some questions don’t have answers or don’t yet have answers.

Insufficient opining is reversible, but the opposite can’t be undone. And anglophones not fluent in Arabic offer a lot of opinions on matters where Arabic fluency would appear crucial to a well-formed opinion.

Experts and expertise as problematic

If a handyman cannot fix your leaky pipe, they aren’t considered a plumber. Their expertise relative to plumbing can be known. It is testable.

With respect to the Syrian crisis, expertise is too often self-designated or self-professed by those who have simply spent more time and effort, or who have read more, or who have credentials, or who speak with more confidence relative to laymen.

What if plumber-level ‘expertise’ actually lay well beyond those thresholds? Many people would suddenly be speaking far too assertively.

Expertise can be relative within a population or expertise can be measured with respect to the problem at hand. Someone who can half-fix a leaky pipe has more expertise than someone who cannot, but they are dishonest if they call themselves a plumber.

Canadian policy

Stories from Syria does forward the opinion that Canada should accept more Syrian refugees.

Canada was four years too late in beginning this. And Canada has accepted far fewer refugees than its capacity and far fewer than the desperate need. Those are the salient measurements — now is not the time for self-congratulations.

Canadian policy has become disproportioned in its importance because doors are closing to Syrians elsewhere. Canada’s initial resettlement efforts have been a success — this is a repeatable, improvable process and non-burdening to taxpayers.

Immigrants are and have been lifeblood to the Canadian economy. They commit less crime per capita than the natural population and they create more wealth, while draining social services less, per capita, than the natural population.

There is no reason to believe that Syrian refugees will not be medium and long term enrichers of the Canadian economy. So besides all other considerations, resettlement is an economic opportunity, the arbitrage of which is available to Canada by way of a sullied international political climate.