The administration team is currently searching for Canadian expatriates who would be interested in contributing to the Expat Blog. The subject matter is wide open, but must remain family friendly.
If you are interested in joining our blogging team, please send an email our way!
Posted by Admin
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Thoughts on Immigration by Expat
Yesterday I received an anti-immigration email forward.
It is odd to live in a nation where, by all means, I blend in with the majority, yet I stand out in small ways - small ways that are large enough to ensure that I am not part of that same majority. In speaking with new acquaintances, I am asked about my accent, a certain phrase that I have used, or where I grew up. That leads to a discussion about my Canadian roots which frequently leads to an anti-immigration diatribe.
I listen and say nothing. It is not my place. I have learned that it is difficult to battle against ignorance. By the end of the conversation it is clear that my new acquaintance and I do not have much in common. A sheepish look generally crosses over their face and they try to backpedal with statements such as, "I was not talking about you" or "you are different". The fact of the matter is that an immigrant is an immigrant. You can not generalize and stereotype an entire group without painting me with that same broad brush stroke. I am well aware that when I am called "immigrant girl", it is not intended as an endearing nickname.
Growing up on the Canadian prairies, I will admit that I was heavily sheltered from such attitudes. I had friends of all races, creeds, and nationalities. I remember learning about discrimination in the fourth grade and I could not understand it. To me, an individual is an individual, each with their own merits. Now as an adult, I gaze out my sliding glass window and see the neighbour's Confederate flag flying high. It has been eighteen years since I first learned about racism and discrimination and I still do not understand it.
It really feels like "American's" are against immigration because they feel that people with different cultural/ethnic backgrounds are undesireable neighbours and friends. It seems like racism to me. And it makes me sad.
I absolutely agree with what you said, Expat, yet I rarely know how to express it. Growing up in Canada it seemed like *everyone* was from "someplace else", but no one was threatened by it. My city was largely dominated by eastern European immigrants (oh, how I'd love to go to a restaurant which serves "kapusta" again!), and many of the kids I went to school with attended extra classes to study their "heritage language" and to learn their cultural traditions (dancing, for example). I thought it was cool that people had come from "someplace else", but it never seemed like they weren't "Canadian". I personally never felt threatened when I went into the Greek area of Toronto and saw street signs in Greek, when I saw police officers wearing turbans, etc. That's just what Canada has always been -- a place you can love and adopt, but a place where you can also retain the things that make you unique.
I know there's racism and discrimination in Canada, and there are people there who are anti-immigration. From my experience though, multiculturalism is welcome and accepted by the majority. It helps to keep the place interesting!
This was a difficult subject for me to tackle. In fact, after I published this post, I struggled with it. I was not sure whether I should leave it here or not. I even deleted it and republished it on a number of occasions. When Kim responded, I decided that it was pertinent so I left it here.
It is hard to put words to my recent experiences. I have been fortunate in my life never to have to deal with discrimination or racism and it has sent me reeling lately. Like both of you, I grew up where it was normal to know kids who took Ukrainian or Scottish dancing, learned how to speak German, or had just previously moved to Canada from Poland or Cambodia. I was always a little jealous that they were so rich in their cultural, while most of mine felt forgotten over the generations. In the spring there was always a festival where you could buy a passport and tour various pavilions to get a taste of different cultures. To me, that was what Canada was about – cultural diversity.
I don’t mean to make Canada seem like it is absent of prejudice. We all know that it exists everywhere. The difference was that I was never confronted by it on a daily basis like I now am. After a while, it becomes difficult to dismiss and it wears on your soul and your identity.
This whole concept of the melting pot is foreign to me. In fact, am not certain how it works. How could I ever “fit in” to a society which already has judged me based on my birthplace?
The one thing I noticed while living in other countries outside north america was the push to be integrated into society and speaking the national language.
I would have to agree that when moving to a new country, there should be some type of integration for newbies. It's only fair and might completely change "racism" problems.
Case in fact, usually people who walk down the street and can speak english here in canada say "hello".
If they aren't English speakers, they will not even glance up or say a word. I find this to be a severe sign of "rudeness" and I wish people like this would be sent to learn how to integrate into society. It's not a matter of being shy, it's more a matter of not speaking the language.
I made sure I could say hello in every country I visited or stayed, so I don't think this is such a great thing to ask of them. I felt bad when I could not, so why not expect the same? The immigrants are the ones who need to learn about integration too. It just might make things a bit better for everyone.
I am an American thinking of emigrating to Canada. I am liberal, anti-war, gay, and Jewish, so you can imagine how I no longer feel I belong here.I found your blog and I am very interested in learning why some Canadians have chosen to leave Canada. I look forward to any comments you care to post.