A North Okanagan author has announced he is donating royalties from his books to help bring a Syrian family to the Okanagan.
James Osborne said he made the decision while preparing a collection of short stories for publication this summer.
“All of the stories were inspired by the wonderful life we enjoy in Canada,” he said. “They are happy stories, a sharp contrast to the wanton savagery forcing millions from their homes and their livelihoods.”
Osborne said he is donating a quarter of earnings between Dec. 1 and Feb. 29 from his two novels and the short story collection. The funds will go to a group in the Armstrong and Spallumcheen area planning to welcome a Syrian refugee family.
“We are learning the enormous migration of refugees under way from the Middle East to Europe has the potential to become the largest human catastrophe the world has faced since the Second World War,” Osborne said. “During my years as a journalist I witnessed some terrible things happen to good people. But this crisis is off the charts.
“What got to me most was the awful image of that three-year-old boy’s body lying on a Turkish beach…heart-breaking.”
Osborne said while he hopes his action will prompt others to help bring Syrian refugees to Canada, it is a personal decision.
“Everyone needs to decide these things for themselves. Mine is a small gesture but if it encourages more people to help, that’s a welcome bonus. The need is massive.”
He said part of the motivation for getting involved is about paying it forward.
“I’ve experienced difficult moments in my life and was fortunate others were there for me at the time,” he said. “It’s my turn to step up and help. So yes, it’s payback time.”
The award-winning writer said the donation includes royalties from his collection of short stories, Encounters With Life – Tales of Living, Loving and Laughter, as well as from his novel, The Ultimate Threat, and his newly released mystery, The Maidstone Conspiracy. All of the books are available on Amazon. Some local bookstores are carrying both Encounters With Life, and The Ultimate Threat, an Amazon bestseller about the ISIS terrorists.
“I’ve been enormously fortunate this year, and ought to share that good fortune,” said Osborne. “However, I must also caution that earnings from books are notoriously small… most writers receive less than 10 per cent of the retail price, if we’re lucky. So it’s as much the gesture as the amount.”
Asked about opposition to the federal government’s plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year, Osborne said perhaps the critics have forgotten their ancestors were also immigrants.
“All of us are descendants of immigrants, with the likely exception of First Nations people.”
Osborne acknowledged that the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris have raised concerns that religious extremists may be hiding among the millions of refugees, fuelling prejudice against the refugees.
“Growing up on the Prairies in a multi-racial community taught me that fear and prejudice are bedfellows. Attacks by terrorists like the tragedies in Paris are designed to create fear. If we give in to fear and prejudice, then terrorism wins and the rest of us lose,” Osborne said. “We need to remember, those refugees are victims. None of us here can even begin to comprehend the trauma those families are enduring. The risk that a few cowardly psychopaths might be hiding among millions of innocent fathers, mothers, children and elderly is no excuse for turning our backs on them. Blaming them is absurd. It’s like blaming your car for running out of gas.”
Osborne added that the UN estimates at least 4.2 million people in the region are now registered as refugees; 80 per cent of them are women, children and the elderly.
“They are just ordinary people who’ve left everything behind, hoping for the kind of life we take for granted,” he said.