Veronica Ponce’s voice cracks over the phone as she fights back tears.
Over the past few weeks, the Chilean immigrant has grown increasingly concerned about the hatred towards Syrian refugees and Muslims.
“All this news, it hurt my heart, because I know how to be a refugee,” she said with a shaky voice on the Gormely Wednesday morning.
When Ponce was 16, her family fled Chile to escape the persecution of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. Before their escape, her step-father spent six months in a concentration camp for his affiliation to the local socialist party.
Unable to get jobs because of their affiliations, the family fled in 1973 to Argentina. They lived on the street in Buenos Aires for two years.
Her mother was accepted to Canada as a refugee but because Ponce had married, she had to stay behind with her husband and two daughters. Argentina told her she would need to leave the country so with the help of the United Nations, she was accepted to live in Denmark.
In 1981, with the help of her mother, she was able to come to Canada as an immigrant.
“We worked hard. Sometimes we didn’t have enough food for our children but we never asked for help,” she said. “Today we have our own home, we’re still working… we pay taxes. We accept Canada’s rules.”
Republican candidate Donald Trump called on the United States government to ban all Muslims from entering the country. The statement has received harsh criticism from people on all sides of the House of Representatives with some going as far as to call Trump’s statement fascist.
Meanwhile a pig’s head was left at a Philadelphia mosque. In Canada, Calgary police are searching for men who painted anti-refugee and anti-muslim graffiti on a train station and cars and there have been reports of attacks on Muslims in Toronto.
“When I see this, it opens wounds,” she said. “People they can’t understand, when you lose your country and you don’t have anything else to do and some other country opens its doors just to give you a life. I’m so happy to be a Canadian because they provided everything my country took away from me.”
She hopes Canadians and Americans open their eyes and see both nations were built on immigration and should accept newcomers with open arms and acceptance.