August 28 is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington. In November of 1967 King addressed the Canadian public as part of the Massey Lectures. Canada's role in the underground railroad gave Canadians' a special place in King's heart:
"Canada is not merely a neighbor to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the north star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the North a land existed where a fugitive slave if he survived the horrors of the journey could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes. We sang of "heaven" that awaited us and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there. One of our spirituals "Follow the Drinking Gourd," in its disguised lyrics contained directions for escape. The gourd was the big dipper, and the north star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border.
So standing to-day in Canada I am linked with the history of my people and its unity with your past.
The underground railroad could not bring freedom to many Negroes. Heroic though it was, even the most careful research cannot reveal how many thousands it liberated. Yet it did something far greater. It symbolized hope when freedom was almost an impossible dream. Our spirit never died even though the weight of centuries was a crushing burden."
I can't help but think that King would be shocked and gravely disappointed by the Harper government's decision to abandon Canadian citizens when they run into trouble abroad. Many of them like Suaad Hagi Mohamud, Abousfian Abdelrazik, Abdihakim Mohammed and others are recent immigrants who, like King saw Canada as a "north star" and an indelible symbol of hope and freedom. For them and many other immigrants this dream is fading fast as they find themselves trapped, imprisoned or worse in foreign countries.
As a Canadian, I feel deeply ashamed and angry that this government is abandoning core Canadian values. They must stop or better still, be replaced by a government that embraces those values.