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Posted: January 2, 2016

There’s no place in our world for affluenza

Gerry WarnerPerceptions by Gerry Warner

Do we in the rich Western World suffer from ‘affluenza?’

Fortunately, I don’t think Canadians do unlike our neighbors to the south. But in case you’ve been spending a lot of time under the mistletoe lately and never heard of affluenza I will explain.

Ethan Couch is a rich, spoiled Texan lad, who was driving drunk at the age of 16 and plowed into a group of pedestrians, killing four and critically injuring several others, but only received 10 years’ probation for intoxication manslaughter after his lawyer successfully argued he suffered from “affluenza,” a state of mind brought on by extreme wealth and privilege leaving him unable to distinguish right from wrong.

The lenient sentence caused an uproar and the defence psychologist in Couch’s case later said he wished he never used the term ‘affluenza’ commenting, “we used to call these people spoiled brats.” A video surfaced recently of Couch drunk again at a teenage party at which point he and his mother absconded to Mexico where the pair were picked up last week in disguise in Puerto Vallarta and returned to Texas where the authorities say they’re seeking to raise Couch to adult court where he could face years in jail for violating probation.

Keep in mind that this happened in the richest country on earth where wealth can buy lenient court sentences and even the presidency as many fear in the case of Donald Trump. Also keep in mind that the American government is currently allowing only 10,000 Syrian refugees to enter the country and if Trump is elected he has promised a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.

Quite a contrast to the Great White North, with only a tenth of the U.S. population, but allowing 25,000 Syrian refugees to enter Canada by March and thousands more in the future. Not to mention countries like Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Lebanon, which have accepted refugees by the millions.

Kind of makes you proud to be a Canuck, eh. And that isn’t to deny a small minority of Canadians oppose Syrian refugees emigrating here based on fear, which is understandable given the ISIS terrorist events in France and two fatal acts of terrorism committed in Canada by home-grown terrorists inspired by ISIS.

But unlike our American friends traumatized by 9/11 and the fall of the Twin Towers, we’re not losing our cool or our Canadian common sense and realize that isolated acts of terrorism can happen anywhere and the way to deal with it is not by closing borders but by welcoming the refugees who are also fleeing from the same terror we fear, but live a hell of a lot closer to it.

And as much as this is a great humanitarian move on the part of Canadians, there is more than charity involved in what we’re doing. Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, our new prime minister has shrewdly recognized the refugees we’re bringing in have much to offer. Have you not noticed when they appear on TV, the vast majority of refugees speak English? This is very telling. What it reveals is that the ones getting out are well educated, strongly motivated and totally engaged in carving out new lives for themselves. They include professionals, shopkeepers and ordinary people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work. Just the kind of people any country needs.

And most of all, they’re bringing children! Just what Canada needs as our fertility rate falls below the replacement rate and immigration is the only way our population is increasing as our society grows older.

Time for some disclosure here. I’m the co-chair of the Cranbrook Hub for Refugees (CHR), a group trying to bring a Syrian refugee family, or any refugee family, to Cranbrook. So go ahead and call me biased if you want. But if you share my concern for the plight of war-ravaged refugees no matter where they come from and want to do the right thing, give me a call.

My number is in the book and I’ll tell you how you can contribute any way you want.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a strong believer in the generosity of Cranbrookians.

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