Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins has released her powerful yet heartbreaking new song Oh Canada, a sad tale about the plight of a young boy who died while trying to seek asylum after leaving war-torn Syria.
Speaking about Oh Canada, from which 100 per cent of net proceeds will go to the ASRC (Asylum Seekers Resource Centre), Higgins says the track stemmed from the images of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in September 2015 and whose body was photographed lying lifeless on a beach on the Mediterranean Sea.
“We often read about the tragic plight of refugees but I think that picture exposed us to the reality in such a raw way that the truth became inescapable,” Higgins says.
“From where I sat in my comfortable living room nursing my newborn son, the tiny child in that wrenching image could have been my own little boy. I felt overwhelmed by a profound protective instinct for him and people like him.”
The only survivor in the Kurdi family was Alan’s father, Abdullad, and Higgins says she tried to write Oh Canada from his perspective, because “his quest was so relatable”.
“I imagined that during that tumultuous boat journey, his heart cried out for Canada to embrace him and his family. Obviously, in this song, ‘Canada’ represents anywhere in the world that might be the preferred sanctuary for people like the Kurdi’s,” Higgins says.
“Amongst other countries, it represents Australia which has such an abhorrent record in dealing with people seeking asylum who try to travel to our shores by boat. Some sections of the media have helped turn these poor people into criminals, but in reality they are usually exactly like us; just not lucky enough to be born into our privilege.”
Higgins says she hopes Oh Canada can inspire people “to do something on behalf of refugees — to speak up for their rights and to push back against those who seek to inflame our fears and prejudices”.
The drawings featured in the Oh Canada video were created by children involved in programs run by Caritas and World Vision across countries like Damascus, Syria, Beirut and Lebanon. The video is directed by Natasha Pincus and animation director Nicholas Kallincos.
Catch the heartbreaking clip in full below, and donate to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, here.
Watch: Missy Higgins – Oh Canada
Gallery: Missy Higgins, Paul Dempsey – Twilight At Taronga, Sydney 13.02.16 / Photos: Olivia Hadisaputra