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Don’t feel helpless. Help!

Over the weekend, a group of amazing leaders in the Canadian tech community came together to write an open letter on how diversity is our strength. The letter has been signed by over 3000 members of our community.

Politicians throughout Canada responded with their support. But now is not the time to sit back and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. We have not succeeded in effecting change.

In the open letter, we called for our political leaders to “oppose any and all laws that undermine or attack inclusion.” We called for an “immediate and targeted visa providing those currently displaced by the US Executive Order with temporary residency in Canada.” We demanded that these visas “allow these residents to live and work in Canada with access to benefits until such time as they can complete the application process for permanent residency.” And we stated unequivocally that “providing refuge to people seeking safety should remain our compass.”

Our elected officials, while stating support, have not delivered on these actions. Waterloo Region’s MPs didn’t even attend the emergency debate on the US travel ban held this past Tuesday night. While tweeting that diversity is our strength and signing petitions sound great, there is a lot more we can do to make an impact.

If you truly believe what you signed your name to in the open letter, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Your work is not done. But don’t feel helpless. Help!

Help the lawyers on the ground in the US fighting this Executive Order: Donate to ACLU.

Help the Muslim community in the US that lost their mosque the day after the Executive Order was signed: Donate to help them rebuild.

Help support the families in Quebec who lost loved ones, all because they were praying in a mosque: Donate to ease their burden during this time of grieving.

Help here in Canada: Donate funds and donate time to volunteer with your local immigrant / refugee welcome centre.

Help keep our politicians to their promises: Write your MP to tell them we want PM Trudeau’s tweet turned into actual increased numbers of refugees.

Calling their local offices — though the phone can be uncomfortable — is the single most effective way to get their attention. Call them this week and next. Fill their voicemails. Demand a call back from your representative. Tell them that we expect them to participate in the national conversation.

There’s currently a cap on the number of Syrian refugees who can be brought to Canada through private sponsorships, sometimes called the Group of 5 stream. This cap of 1,000 applications was reached over the weekend. This means that even if there are people and community groups who are able to commit the money, time, care, and support required to sponsor Syrian refugees, they aren’t able to. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley stated Wednesday that Alberta would accept and settle more refugees if the cap was lifted.

Help your MP understand that you find this cap contrary to our statement that “providing refuge to people seeking safety should remain our compass.”

Help to keep these issues on the forefront: Show up to rallies when they happen, follow Tech Without Borders, and continue having these conversations with those around you. Embody solidarity — show up when the issue is unfair, even if it doesn’t affect you or your immediate community.

As women in tech, we’re no strangers to standing up and speaking out, and we’re starting to get a lot of traction. Now is the time that we should be standing up for others too.

Help to educate yourself: Add to today’s current context by learning more about its history. Learn more about Canada’s history of immigration policies (“The Making of the Mosaic”) and America’s slavery — turned incarceration — industry (“The 13th”).

Help yourself understand the current immigration systems in place: Read a few facts about the American immigration system and the Canadian immigration system. And then read some more.

Help support the work already being done: Two great examples include our Canadian Council for Refugees and Fresh Voices, the awesome group of young newcomers in BC advocating for improvements. In Waterloo Region, consider supporting Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre, Reception House, or the SHORE Centre’s Newcomer Women’s Health Program.

Use your awesome tech skills! Check out this thread on Twitter for a list of groups that are actively seeking help:

If we truly believe that diversity is our strength, then signing a petition isn’t nearly enough action. Now is the time when we must call on our elected leaders and ourselves to make a difference.

Don’t feel helpless. Help!

Many thanks to Claire Kelly and Carly Greco, who are inspirations to any aspiring activist, passionate citizens, and amazing co-authors.

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