Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Why we help


In the effort to shape Whistler’s international outreach program, a community task force has just been formed last month. One difficult subject that needs to be dealt with is where and how we are going to start this outreach program. Are we going to help a community in Africa, Indonesia or other Asian countries? I believe while we are discussing the “where and how”, we should not forget about “why”. Because, I believe, many people in this community still have no clue on why we help some foreigners while we are still busy with other things here at home.

We all understand that this effort will need support from everybody in this community, businesses, government agencies, and various community groups. I never question the generosity of this community to various causes here and anywhere. However, I think this community has yet to make a serious effort in its international outreach program, which has been a public discussion since the 2004 Tsunami in Indonesia. It is easy to be generous with various causes directed to our own community, but it takes a much bigger heart plus a very good reason “why” we help some foreigners in the long-term basis, not just during natural disasters. We need to communicate this to the community, because we probably need to do fundraising for this effort too. This issue will, no doubt, determine the future of Whistler’s international outreach program. Will it become a long-term community effort and source of pride or just another ill-fated, under-funded program?

I believe this issue cannot be separated from Canada’s own history. Many of us may not know that Canada is widely recognized in Asia as the “ Samaritan State ” for being the pioneer of aid programs to the poor countries. Every kid in Indonesia learns from school that Canada was the initiator of the Colombo Plan, which has been part of Indonesia’s history. At Colombo (Sri Lanka), Canadian delegates under Lester Pearson formalized a relationship with the Third World — a term unknown until 1952 — that began with Canadian missionaries and doctors who had been going to Africa and Asia for decades. Before the Colombo Plan, organized regular giving from the governments of wealthy countries to the governments of poor countries for the purpose of helping them speed up their economic development was an unfamiliar pattern in the history of mankind. Canada, in a sense, invented a new pattern in the arena of foreign policy. The money committed would go up and down, but there was no turning back. From then on, foreign aid became the prominent face of Canada to this world.