CALGARY – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his gratitude Friday for Canada’s response to the refugee crisis, praising citizens who extended “caring, warm hands” to people who had nowhere else to go.
In a speech at the University of Calgary, Ban said he was grateful for the “generous and compassionate” commitment of the Canadian government to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.
Ban met with Syrian refugee families in Calgary earlier in the day and recalled hearing from one mother whose deaf son was shot in the neck.
He said the woman told him: “I dream that my kids will do something good for Canada because Canada saved us.”
Elsewhere in the world, Ban said, refugees have not been welcomed as openly.
“All this xenophobia, discrimination, we have to reject.”
Ban also met with indigenous leaders during his first official visit to Alberta since he became Secretary-General in 2007.
His speech coincided with International Youth Day and focused on three areas where young people can make a difference: tackling unemployment, fostering peace and security and battling climate change.
He noted that there are 75 million unemployed youth around the world.
“This is a massive challenge for the United Nations and for world leaders, but young people can be part of the solution,” he said.
“Youth can do more than find jobs — they can create them.”
Ban said he’s “outraged” so many young people’s lives have been uprooted by violence and he’s concerned about the perception some have that youth are part of the problem.
“Violent extremists may pray on young people, but the vast majority of young people want peace,” he said.
He urged students listening to his speech to show that youth are not a “liability,” but an “opportunity.”
“Young people can break barriers, reach across divisions and forge understanding. They can be peacemakers. They can be peace builders,” he said.
“We need you to help generate change … Raise your voice. You have unlimited authority and power and right to raise your voice.”