As I boarded an STM bus last Saturday morning to run some errands around town, there was a sense of excitement among several Black passengers – children and adults alike – but especially the children. They were headed somewhere, evidently for some event.
It couldn’t be church (Seventh Day Adventist notwithstanding); people, especially children, do not get that excited about going to church unless it’s for some special non-religious event.
As the bus continued along the route, more and more adults and children of different ethnic backgrounds boarded. Observing them more closely, and listening to their accents, I determined that they were of African, Southeast Asian, and other ethnic backgrounds, leading me to the conclusion that they were probably recent arrivals: perhaps refugees, landed immigrants… who had found a safe haven for [their] families in Canada.
It truly was a cultural mix on the bus that morning, perhaps much to the chagrin of the few white passengers. I don’t like to generalize, but… sometimes there’re reasons to.
Then the reason for all the excitement became apparent when the bus pulled up to a stop where there was a throng, people walking in all directions, adults slinging bags of stuff… accompanied by children, little packages in one hand, colourful balloons dancing to the autumn breeze in the other. Some of them boarded the bus, others went wherever…
That day, as the seasonal, festive saying goes, “Christmas was in the air…” and it will be for the next 19 days.
All those ‘colourful’ people who disembarked the bus that morning and others who boarded with their goodies were in a jolly mood.
Then everything became clear.
Housed in a large building in that certain section of the Southwest is a well-known [social] organization where people (not all immigrants/refugees or recent arrivals, but also native-born) converge on specific days of the week for a helping hand – of foodstuff, clothing, etc. – to make it through another one.
From the moment I boarded that bus, and the pick-up of passengers along the route, there was a sense of Christmas in the air; the children, and by extension the parents, were feeling and sounding it. I could tell they were happy to be in Canada. Like 99.9 percent of all comers to Canada.
Canada had opened its door to them, as it had done… been doing for others, for generations. And continues to do for many who find themselves, their lives… in danger in one way or another. Some are landed immigrants, some (vetted) refugees, others whom we perhaps saw crossing the Vermont/N.Y./Quebec borders last summer.
Sure, all those multicoloured faces riding the bus that Saturday morning are a reflection of Canada’s pledge to do its part to help out in this ongoing global refugee crisis as displaced peoples, including millions of children, most often through no fault of their own, seek havens where families and individuals can start new and normal lives in a peaceful/stable environment without fear for their lives.
Canada is only doing its part – as it has been doing historically to alleviate the burden many around the world are enduring because of multiple factors afflicting millions of people in various nations around the world that are now in the throes of migrant/refugee fatigue which has given rise to growing anti-immigrant backlash as once-welcoming nations continue to yield to growing pressure and rising populism of domestic anti-immigrant (racist, right wing) forces…
Think Italy, even Sweden, Austria, Germany… the (current populist anti-immigrant government of the) USA… And now right here in Quebec where the newly-minted/elected provincial government is going ahead with an election promise to (discourage would-be immigrants) reduce the number of immigrants to Quebec by ten percent, 10,000.
Ironically, it comes at a time when municipalities and employers are complaining about a labour shortage and an urgent need for employees.
The optics/image of people swarming the Vermont/N.Y/Quebec borders come to mind, is the story, the catalyst for change and action. Which, naturally, causes inquisitive minds to wonder: what if those were Nordic peoples… flowing across the checkpoints, how would the provincial and federal governments, and the growing anti-immigrant forces react?
How all those people I observed last Saturday in that festive/celebratory mood… their status, language kills and whatnot… got here is a mot point in my view. They are here, and I’m sure most or all of them are literally and figuratively working overtime to build their new lives on this territory they’ve chosen to call their new home. And no doubt many are doing all the right things for themselves (and their children, if any) to become present and future taxpayers in this province and country. That’s the driving impetus of immigrants.
Never mind the narrow view of the populist adhering anti-immigrant forces who think that by virtue of their ancestors conquering of this piece of global territory that this land is only theirs… It’s everybody’s, as long as they’re prepared (and most always are) to contribute to making this a better place for, as a former Canadian Prime Minister once said, “Old Stock”, as well as newcomers of all stripes…
I don’t know the status of all those people I saw last Saturday, if they are refugees, landed immigrants… or what, but they are here. Some probably victims of the current global refugee crises, caused by “wars and civil wars.”
According to a June 2015 UN refugee agency report, “wars and persecutions are the main reasons behind the refugee crises all over the world…”
Another excerpt from an article, Human rights violations states,
“[…] In countries ravaged by massive corruption and greed by those in political positions, many people have been forced to leave their homes in search of survival in foreign lands. The corruption and greed by those in power in such countries includes their amassal of too much wealth at the expense of many, and they end up grabbing property such as land from the marginalized and murdering the innocent, situations where even when one has the necessary qualifications, he or she cannot find work, all work positions are occupied by relatives who sometimes may not even be qualified for them, all the countries’ resources are in the hands of the lucky few in political positions coupled by their misuse of surplus when many are suffering with nothing and remain in tears as is the case in many African nations, for example Uganda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea and many others being on top of the most corrupt countries in the whole world when their citizens are suffering. This situation of marginalization, discrimination and inequality leads to many to get tired and risk their lives in boat voyages to anywhere they can expect some changes in their lives for example Europe, Canada or North America and Australia among other Countries…”
This was extracted [verbatim]; the author is unknown, (perhaps an African migrant who found refuge in a western country). But if you care about Africa, you know the [his]story. Just about every western government on any side of the Mediterranean who had historical contact with the continent is complicit in its historical (current) circumstance(s). Primarily by fomenting and financing wars and other proxy and tribal conflict to the detriment of any sustained national and continental development of the most bountiful continent on Earth.
And already bad conditions are exacerbated natural phenomena: drought, famine, starvation, hunger… Those multiple factors continue to impact the lives of Africa’s (and other) peoples resulting in recurring human swarms forced to flee their native countries to crash borders, cross the big Sea, sometimes washing up on beaches like flotsam and jetsam.
In a sense all those people – of African and other nationalities – swarming the world were crises in the making when Europeans and Africans first made contact… The aftermath is still being played out centuries on.
Africa remains at the mercy of the developed and developing world… China, India, and whoever else wants a piece of the continent. Thanks to its malleable paper presidents… All of whom are ensuring that Africa is never afforded a real true and genuine opportunity to find its way as an equal on the global stage — without outside intervention/subterfuge to hamper its people’s 21st century aspirations.
Which is why, in a sort of chickens-coming-home-to-roost way they seek havens in other nations that were/are beneficiaries of Africa’s resource birthright.
So welcome and help them, for helping your ancestors, you…