What did I do wrong, Canada, that makes you value me less?
I did what I was supposed to. I learned English. I learned French. I learned history, and I learned civics. I learned about law, and the constitution, and the charter of rights and freedoms, about section fifteen and about section seven and section eleven. I learned that you, Canada, are multicultural. You love us. The foreign born us, the coloured us, the non-Christian us, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free – us. You loved us, who chose to make a home with you.
So I did. My family did. I chose to make a home with you. I swore the oath. I was eight, and I cried with pride as I swore the oath. As a Canadian Citizen, I cried with pride when I sang “Oh, Canada” for the first time.
I grew up Canadian. Hyphenated Canadian, yes, but Canadian nonetheless. You taught me that I was Canadian, no matter what else I was, and more fool I, I believed you. I grew up to be a good student, a good worker. I vote, I do not break the law, I pay my taxes, I am planning a future, as a productive citizen, as a good Canadian child ought to.
But today, I found out that to you, I am less. I am less of a Canadian because my parents were two years too late to move here. I am less of a Canadian because the first air I breathed was not fresh Canadian air. I am less of an Canadian, even though I learned English and French and forgot my native tongue. I am less of a Canadian even though I grew up here, even though I learned that Canada loved us all. I am less of a Canadian, even though I swore that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen. Because I have had to swear this, I am less of a Canadian.
Why am I less of a citizen? Because according to Bill C24, my citizenship can be revoked. It can be revoked if fraud is suspected. It can be revoked if some shadowy figure in the halls of the West Block deems that I do not intend to live here any more. And I do not have the right to appeal to a judge. I do not have the right of due process. All because I was not born here. I have spent my life here, I am a citizen, but I do not have the rights of a Canadian.
I am a highly trained professional in a field with too many Canadian professionals and many opportunities to bring my Canadian Education, my Canadian skills and knowledge to other parts of the world, to bring international experience back. Just yesterday, I was charging full speed ahead to those opportunities. But now I am afraid to take them, because Canada has deemed me less than her home grown children. Because Canada can kick me out into the cold if I linger out past an unknown curfew that she will never tell me until it is too late.
Should Canada’s actuaries be afraid to value the world? Should Canada’s programmers be afraid to go out to change the world? Should Canada’s teachers be afraid to go teach in the world? No, only the ones who were not born here. Only the ones she does not trust, who are somehow less Canadian because they have parents, grandparents, relatives with different citizenship. We are less because we were not born here, and we are afraid to take the opportunities her native children can grab. It’s not fair.
And should I be brave, should I try to go learn from the world and have children somewhere else. Canada will leave my children out in the cold. Oh, if their father is a true-born Canadian, she will graciously acknowledge them as her children, but my children will be bastards. I will not be able to pass on the citizenship I cherish, and I will have to choke on the hypocrisy of teaching them Canadian multiculturalism and acceptance when Canada will not accept me and mine. And if she does acknowledge my children through their father, they will still be second class citizens like I am. The only difference will be that they will not be able to delude themselves that Canada loves us.
I am not the only less. There are those deemed less because they come to Canada to be with their family in their old age, but cannot because of the four year wait and the demands of old age on the memory. There are those who are deemed less because they have to deal with puberty, fitting in, being other, and now being less, on top of learning Canadian language and history. These children are treated as adults uncertain of their future while their peers can be secure in their worth as Canadians to the law. There are those deemed less because although they have spent four years studying in Canada to become productive citizens, those four years do not count any more. There are those deemed less, because they have been waiting for three years and their time is running out.
I am angry. I am angry at the politicians who drafted the bill and did not listen to the objections of lawyers, immigration advocates, and opposing party members to make us less. I am angry at all the Conservative politicians who toed the party line and voted for the bill. I am angry at MPs like The Honourables Mr. Cheungsen Leung, Mr. Baljit Singh Gosal, and Ms. Alice Wong, of Willowdale, Bramalea, and Richmond who are immigrants themselves, yet voted yes for this dishonourable law. I am angry at MPs like The Honourable Mr. Deepak Obrhai of Calgary, who are immigrants and did not vote against this dishonourable law. I am angry at the Honourable Mr. Chris Alexander of Ajax, for mixing dishonourable atrocity in with necessary changes to immigration law. I am angry at the Harper Government (because they do not wish to be known as the Canadian Government) for turning the country that I love and the values that I hold dear into a farce.
I am less screaming out to more for help. I am less screaming out private pain to public ears because this should not be so. I should not be less. We should not be less.
I will continue to blog about Canadian Politics, especially if they make me angry. At the rate the country’s going, though, that might be fairly often. See the full debate on Bill C24 here and check how your MP voted here.