My children and I immigrated to Canada in 2010 as refugees. When we arrived, I was so happy that my kids were in a safe country. In Zimbabwe I remember not being able to cry or find comfort in anyone, because everyone was experiencing their own share of pain and shock. So in April of 2010, after being released from the most recent lock-up, I took my kids at midnight and headed for the border knowing that if I was caught I would be burned alive and killed. Even though I was living with the uncertainty of how my immigration hearing would pan out, watching my kids embrace Canadian culture strengthened me when I was at my weakest point.
I remember so distinctly staring around at the room of Toronto Star editors and the people around me, including my own fellow interns, and I remember the exact moment of realizing that everyone in that room, except me, was white. I often believe its all too easy when you exist as a member of the "other," like a minority community like ours, for someone to cling to the idea of being the "first one," the "only one" and achieve what they can in the world for themselves and then go home with the pride of that recognition and nothing else. What if instead of believing there are limited seats to the table, we all chose to add more chairs?
Logic would dictate that big-earning millionaires continue to earn big after settling in Canada. They might take a pause from their business activities while they settle in to their new country, but it's only a matter of time before the money, and the trickle-down benefits, start flowing, right? Not so.
We need to understand the difference between being separate and being moderate. There is also a need to understand that most Muslim women who don't wear these emblems are still followers of Islam. The conclusion of this debate should be that wearing a particular item of dress should be a person's choice. Showing yourself -- your identity -- should be a choice made by society.
Militias set fire to homes with families still inside. From her safe refuge here in Canada, Dahlia heard the horrific reports and knew she had to get her family out of Syria. But to sponsor them as refugees in Canada would take an agonizing 18 months of bureaucracy and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Dahlia's ordeal raises the question, Are the demands of sponsorship too great for Canadians to bear?
The federal government has finally backtracked on some of their cuts to the refugee health program brought about in 2012. After significant public opposition and a legal challenge on the basis of violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in July 2014, a federal court deemed the cuts to the refugee health program "cruel and unusual" treatment.
The creation of the "temporary" migrant worker programs were at their very core a policy rooted in racist exclusion. And that's exactly where the clock is being turned to today. The shutting out of thousands of racialized women from permanent immigration status is being strangely spun as a step forward. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander insisted, "We are saying to the whole Canadian population, to caregivers above all, the time of abuse and vulnerability is over".
When I am nine, my parents and I immigrate to Canada from the wet, hot, and hurricane-ridden island of Cuba. Before May 31, 2002, I have never stepped beyond my beautiful little island, have never seen a landscape without palm trees or the ocean, have never smelt air that isn't rife with humidity with a hint of dog piss, sea salt, and garbage, and I have never wanted to.
Actions matter more than words, but in his speech to Americans, Obama's words overshadowed his actions. He spoke to hearts and minds, outlining an aspirational set of shared values on immigration. His subtext was 'we're not there yet,' but speaking ten steps ahead of hearts and minds is how to get there.
Forced marriages? Women forced to give birth in private and give away their children? Women trying to end an unwanted pregnancy with a coat hanger and the help of some back-alley doctor? All barbaric acts condoned, perpetuated, or conveniently ignored by the Catholic Church right here in Canada only a few decades ago. How soon we forget and pretend we're the evolved ones now...
One obvious solution would be to distribute enough temporary work visas for the farmers to be able to hire the workers they need legally. The positive aspects of the Bracero program should be revived, while eschewing its mistakes. This would not solve all of the country's illegal immigration problems. But it would certainly be better than the further militarization of the US-Mexico border.
Living abroad is one thing -- planning a wedding from abroad is a whole other story. A very complicated, internet driven, blog obsessed story that involves checking your email 24/7 and a secret love affair with Pinterest. So from one traveller/amateur bride-to-be to another, here are my "Five Great Expectations" leading up to your big day.
The refugee health cuts must be reversed, but we must also look at the underlying disease of which these cuts are a symptom. The refugee health cuts are but one more policy decision in an increasingly regressive immigration system, and refugees are just one more group being denied health care because of their immigration status.
When I see the photo of the Sikhs on the decks of the Komagata Maru, I think of the ones trying so desperately to pry that door open on land. The ones who raised money that they did not have for legal fees, and who rowed out to feed the men aboard with food they scarcely earned. Their story, and reasons for helping those barred from entry is as old as our nation itself.