Huron Carole founder speaks on Syrian refugees

Tom Jackson GigCity EdmontonComing from Tom Jackson, words of support for Syrian refugees carry a lot more weight than the usual pundits.

The 67-year-old actor and singer perhaps best known for his role in North of 60 has dedicated his life to helping less fortunate people.

“When there are vulnerable people, we need to let it be known that we’re there for them,” he says during a phone interview that was supposed to be about the Huron Carole, a Christmas concert series that’s making its way across Canada to raise money for local food banks. The gala in Edmonton on Monday grossed around $40,000.

This cause may appear to be at odds with the issue of refugees, since the concern of food banks is to take care of less fortunate people in our own back yard, not necessarily to support new less fortunate people coming in from other countries. Or is it? Since Jackson founded Huron Carole in 1987 (running annually until 2004 before a hiatus and then a revival in 2012), the event has been all about the food bank. Some critics argue that refugees will put a strain on the system. Others counter that new immigrants will actually make the economy stronger. If Edmonton’s history of immigration is anything to go by, put your bet on the latter. There sure are a lot of halal food shops in town. On the number of refugees using the local food bank in recent years, “There are a few, but not a lot,” says Edmonton food bank director Marjorie Bencz.

The other reason Tom Jackson’s words may carry more weight is that he’s Metis. His people are part of the only Canadians who aren’t immigrants. Europeans were the immigrants, and we all know that turned out.

Jackson says with a dry chuckle, “OK, we can look back in history and say maybe Indian people here had an immigration policy that wasn’t exactly the best, right? We can all admit that. But at the end of the day, this is 300, 400 years later, and we have to understand that we have rights and those are being dealt with, albeit a long story, but at the end of the day, we live here next to you. And I can’t speak for a nation, but I have a personal responsibility, when called upon, that I will act, and I believe that we need to create action, not just be moved by a cause. Here’s our opportunity to do something.”

Make sure we’re clear: For the Syrian refugees?


Jackson, who’s currently promoting his new album Ballads Not Bullets, adds that we do need to make our own back yard a priority, but when it comes to the new immigrants, “I have sent a message to some of friends that work in the federal government that says I will do whatever I can, using whatever means I can, and to contribute what I can to help the government do what it needs to do.”