Feeling love for others and loved by others is a little like being caught in a spider’s web in the nicest possible way, because radiating outward are all those beautiful proteinaceous silks inextricably connecting us to each other.
As a tweenie and teenager I adored Prime Minister Trudeau – The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Still do. I bought into Trudeaumania lock, stock and barrel, even delivered a speech and wrote a paper on the topic. He was an international playboy. He was unique, smart, sexy, French, handsome and – be still my beating heart – openly used the f-word in the house of commons (although he famously claimed to have only said “fuddle-duddle”). He seemed larger than life and I was truly smitten.
Taking advantage of his majority government in the latter half of his first term as Prime Minister and displaying his sui generis intellect, Trudeau announced Canada’s new policy of multiculturalism. Subsequently Canada was the first nation to enact a law that would not only protect but celebrate ethnic diversity. The law provided financial aid so that all racial groups could maintain their cultural distinctiveness, thus thwarting any pressure for social assimilation. Multiculturalism addressed a desire, a need even, of many immigrants; something that was, perhaps, beyond their wildest hopes and dreams, that was unknown to most Canadians, and largely unvoiced prior to October of 1971. Since then, embraced by Canadians from coast to coast to coast, multiculturalism has matured into a mutual state of mind. It is the quintessential Canadian value, and our collective joy in its success is tangible proof of our best humanity.
“There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. What the world should be seeking, and what in Canada we must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values: Compassion, love and understanding.”
Love versus hate. Prophetic.
Canada and the United States have long maintained opposing policies and values regarding immigration. The Americans strongly established and have steadfastly preserved a melting pot philosophy and never has the difference between our two nations been more pronounced than with the current administrations.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is an American Homeland Security program that granted asylum to about 58,000 Haitians following the massive earthquake of 2010. This status expired 31st July 2017. A temporary extension was granted, through January 2018, but as the Boston Globe reports:
“Internal communications reveal a malicious and unprecedented effort by the federal government that seems designed to find disingenuous reasons to cancel the program. Top immigration officials have put out requests for derogatory information about those Haitians, including how many have been convicted of “crimes of any kind,” and how many have been taking advantage of public benefits (which they are not even eligible to receive in the first place). The administration appears to hope it can find a few horror stories to justify disrupting the lives of thousands.”
[uncredited editorial, Boston Globe]
The threat of impending deportation, of being homeless and abandoned has, naturally, frightened many if not all of the Haitians living in the USA under TPS, a fear born of finding one’s self without a home, potentially without a country and ultimately, being alone and unprotected in the world. This fear, this yearning for belonging, being welcomed, being accepted became the catalyst for the 3,300+ refugees crossing into Quebec from the US. Being arrested for entering Canada illegally is preferable to any alternative currently on the table; the TPS extension has done little to assuage their concerns, not after hearing statements like this one:
“This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States,”
[John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary]
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”
[Ephesians 4:2 KJV]
Four simple traits: Be humble, be gentle; be patient, love one another.
In times like these, I feel privileged and joyous to be a Canadian. I also feel enormous pride for our Quebec brothers and sisters who, by example, are leading with these four traits. Quebec authorities have set up Welcome Centres to host these refugees until their screening and documentation is complete (not Processing Centres as they are known elsewhere). Recognizing the need for a venue that could accommodate many more people, a request was made to the Montreal olympic stadium and, in only 24 hours, the food concourse was converted into a welcome centre complete with 150 cots, showers and a cooking area. It is here the asylum seekers will reside and receive help to obtain permanent housing and, eventually, employment.
The law dictates that, upon crossing the border illegally, people be arrested. The RCMP officers have no choice in this matter, but it is their kindness, patience and gentleness that is noteworthy. Their deportment, prominently featured in the international media, is drawing attention, awe and respect from the rest of the world.
Roxham Road is the entry point being used. Originally it was a gravel road with a ditch that marked the Canada/US border. The municipal government has since improved the road and ditch – solely for the refugees – adding a sidewalk to make their crossing easier and safer; for anyone with disabilities, for anyone pushing strollers, for the elderly and for pregnant women.
Determination of the future status and rights of the Haitian diaspora will, I am quite sure, prove to be a gauge – both of the welcome, inclusion and and acceptance offered by Canadians and of the xenophobia, hatred and values of – sadly – a few Americans.
Now a senior, I am again captivated by Prime Minister Trudeau – The Right Honourable Justin Pierre James Trudeau. With one succinct statement he was able to assure Canadians that their safety was not at risk while at the same time making it clear that everyone seeking asylum will be welcomed in Canada. I was charmed by his choice of words:
“The core strength of Canada is that it’s not governments that are open to immigration, it’s Canadians themselves who are open to immigration. One of the reasons Canadians are open to immigration is because we know it has contributed to the growth of this country. Protecting Canadians’ confidence in the integrity of our system allows us to continue to be open, and that’s exactly what I plan to continue to do.”
Really and truly, the rest of the western world needs to sit up and pay attention to Canada. Racism and xenophobia are omnipresent throughout Europe. Nationalistic and isolationistic attitudes in the UK led to Brexit. Exclusionary policies, bordering on white supremacism, are the hallmark of the Trump administration as is his uncharitable America First rhetoric. Proof positive that Canadians must honour and protect multiculturalism; it is the uniquely Canadian virtue and morality that will protect us and isolate us from that fear-mongering and hatred.
Four simple traits: Be humble, be gentle; be patient, love one another.
’Til next time, y’all…