We, the people from Southern Bhutan, locally known as Lhotsampas, have been forcefully evicted by the Bhutanese government under the policy of “One Nation One People”, since the beginning of the 1990s. After being thrown out of our country, we languished in shelters as refugees in Nepal under the aegis of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for over 20 years. Even as refugees we were fed and sheltered by various generous governments around the world including the generous people and Government of Canada. It was not a small feat to feed, shelter and protect over 100,000 refugees for such a long period of time. Even after so long a wait, despite tireless efforts made by the Nepalese Government and the international communities our hope of repatriation to Bhutan seem to fade away because of the very hard-line approach taken by the Bhutanese government. However, the light at the end of the tunnel shone on us when Canada and many other governments in the developed economies offered to resettle us in their countries. We saw this as our only hope and opportunity to once again begin our lives from scratches. Now, we also feel we belong somewhere. Today our inalienable Human Rights and other rights, the ones we were totally denied by the Bhutanese Government, are well protected. It seems like a dream come true.
It was very thoughtful of Canada to first resettle our vulnerable groups -women at risk, victims of torture and/or violence, people with medical needs, followed by their families and friends. Today we are over five thousand people from Bhutan, formerly Bhutanese refugees, who have been resettled in Canada from New Brunswick in the East to British Columbia in the West. Some Journalists referred to us as the “forgotten Ones”. Now, we know, we are not. Though we arrived recently, we can already see our future brightening and opening up in front of us with all our rights, responsibilities and duties in a democratic country. We feel proud to be a part of the mosaic of Canadian multicultural society. Besides, our future generations will never have to go through the same ordeal we went through again. We know they will never be refugees again. We could not have asked for more! For these, we would also like to express our gratefulness to the provincial and local governments as well as all the individuals, agencies and organizations who worked and are working for our resettlement.
Though limited in skills and education, we will work hard to become productive citizens of Canada and make positive contribution in the progress of this great Nation; we now call our home.