At first, there was one story circulating and I discounted it. Then, a couple of days later, there were two more shared with me, and that’s when I decided to write this letter.
Powell River has been home to my family since 1967 and, after a hiatus of about 10 years away, I returned in 1993. The Powell River I have known, and am proud to describe, is one where people are welcomed, both visitors and new arrivals making the same choice we made in 1993. I cannot count how many times I have heard from new arrivals that Powell River is so welcoming and such a pleasant community in which to live. Unfortunately, there is another side to this story.
Many local families host students and guests from around the world including China, Korea, Mexico, Peru, Switzerland, France and more that I can’t count. I think we should be very proud of this welcoming attitude. Our own experience over a couple of years has been nothing but positive as we have hosted students from abroad. Even the less positive experiences others may have had pale in comparison to the new wave of xenophobia and, yes, I will say it, racism.
This current coronavirus situation is demonstrating that not all are welcome after all. The evidence I have comes from other host families (the students are too polite, it seems, to complain publicly) and it is nothing if not paranoid over-reaction. More than one student has been told they were no longer welcome at a home because of worries about coronavirus; in at least one case, the student(s) had been with the Powell River family for more than three months with no travel to questionable destinations. There is even a case of a parcel from Asia being thrown out instead of given to the recipient “because it came from…”; what a pathetic excuse for paranoia.
If you are one of these families, shame on you. I respect the desire to keep “your” circle pure, but your actions are despicable. It would seem that rather than benefiting from the richness and variety of foreign students, you are in it only for the money.
Fortunately, I choose to believe that most of Powell River understands the value of these exchanges both to our culture and to our economy.
Robert Dufour is a resident of Powell River.