People & Places

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Carey Price

Carey Price

How a First Nations kid became a superstar goaltender
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Turtle Island

Turtle Island

The Story of North America's First People
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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#NotYourPrincess

#NotYourPrincess

Voices of Native American Women
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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Stormy Seas

Stormy Seas

Stories of Young Boat Refugees
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Hardcover
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Excerpt

If you’re reading this, you—like me—have probably won the lottery. Not the giant cheque, instant millionaire kind of lottery. The other lottery win—the really valuable one. That random, lucky break that means you were born in or immigrated to a relatively peaceful and prosperous place in the world. Along with all the other amazing things about you, that makes you pretty extraordinary.

Sixty million of the world’s seven billion people aren’t so lucky. They have been forced to leave their homes because of war, persecution, or natural disasters. A staggering 19 million of these displaced people have no hope of ever returning home safely and are seeking asylum in another country. And, more than half of these refugees are children and teenagers. Even more upsetting is that many are orphans or “unaccompanied minors” traveling alone, sent by their family in the hope of finding a safe place to live and get an education.

News reports in 2015 and 2016 have been full of stories of Syrian refugees who are risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The civil war that has been raging there for years has forced more than half of the country’s population out of their homes. That’s more than 11 million people in need of shelter, food, water, and medical care. And thousands of others are escaping wars, persecution, and drought in the Middle East and North and sub-Sahara Africa, also trying to find safe refuge in Europe.

The influx of refugees has caused divisions across the European Union. Countless individuals and organizations have rallied to provide support to the refugees, and countries such as Germany, Hungary, and Sweden have welcomed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers. Yet, many peaceful and prosperous countries in Europe and North America are hostile to refugees and migrants. Anti-refugee and anti-immigrant policies are rising around the world, depriving refugees of the right to asylum guaranteed under international law. So in their quest for a safe and secure future, hundreds of thousands of refugees are forced to turn to criminal smuggling rings that have created a six billion dollar industry, overcharging for passage across the Mediterranean on overcrowded, unseaworthy boats.

But boat refugees risking their lives at sea isn’t a new phenomenon. For hundreds of years, through wars, famines, failing economies, and religious persecution, people have been pushed by circumstances and hope to leave behind all they know and board a ship for a country they’ve never seen. To help make sense of what I was seeing on the news, I set out to research and interview people who were boat refugees themselves as children. I quickly understood the magnitude of what I was asking and how traumatic it can be for people to tell their stories, particularly Syrian children who have recently crossed the Mediterranean and are still living under precarious circumstances in refugee camps in Europe. The five young boat refugees whose stories appear in Stormy Seas are lucky—not only did they survive the treacherous ocean voyage, they persevered and prospered, even in the face of uncertainty, financial challenges, and discrimination in their new homes. Things got better.

At first glance, the refugees we see on the news and the hardships they endure may seem unrelated to us—not our problem. But like Ruth, Phu, José, Najeeba, and Mohamed, the conflicts, discrimination, and environmental challenges that force them to leave their homes aren’t their fault or within their power to change alone. Either through action or inaction, we all play a role in the dire circumstances refugees face. Their courage in leaving behind everything they know in search of peace and security, and their resilience in overcoming horrific journeys, restores hope in what life can be—not just for them but for all of us.

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