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Ignorance Is Bliss

Ignorance Is Bliss

You know that immi­grants are only com­ing here because they have AIDS and stuff and need free health care, right? I mean, not you obvi­ously, but most of Black peo­ple. And Ara­bic. And Asians.

Phew, not me. I’m so relieved. I’m white, must be why.

How did I get into this con­ver­sa­tion, already? Oh yeah, I’m on the bus #151 to down­town, and I took the last free seat beside a mid­dle aged woman who was obvi­ously bored and started up the con­ver­sa­tion as soon as she saw me pulling a French book out of my bag. The con­ver­sa­tion wasn’t about lit­er­a­ture though. Mostly about my back­ground, where I was from and why I came here. This some­how led to this above statement.

Since it takes about 30 min­utes to get down­town, I had plenty of time to straighten a few facts. I explained that every prospec­tive immi­grant has to undergo a full med­ical exam per­formed by a des­ig­nated prac­ti­tioner before being granted a visa. That test­ing for HIV, Hepati­tis and TB is included. And that being infected with any of these dis­eases meant bye bye visa. In a word, it was basi­cally impos­si­ble that immi­grants were com­ing to Canada with the sole pur­pose of tak­ing advan­tage of the health sys­tem since they wouldn’t be allowed in Canada in the first place. And by the way, there were a manda­tory 3 months wait­ing time for new­com­ers to Canada before being cov­ered by the provin­cial health plan.

I must have sound awfully down-to-earth—and frankly, a bit patron­iz­ing as well. The woman stopped look­ing at me in the eyes five min­utes into my lengthy expla­na­tion. Can’t blame here—stereo­types and prej­u­dices are some­times more com­fort­ing than the truth since they pro­vide a good excuse for your basic racist rant and hate.

Immi­grants are a per­fect tar­get: they are dif­fer­ent, they are new and they are often less knowl­edge­able about the country’s cul­ture than locals.

I’ve heard many times that immi­grants only come to the West­ern world to enjoy social ben­e­fits. Once there, they just have a lot of kids and sit around wait­ing for the social ben­e­fits paid to fam­i­lies’ monthly cheque. Yeah… well. How many of you can live off social ben­e­fits? And how many of you would : a) pay immigration fees of about $6 000 (for a fam­ily of 4) b) wait for a few years to have it processed c) leave your coun­try for the unknown—all that for a grand total of $400/month of gov­ern­ment money to live on? Seriously.

In the same vein, immi­grants steal the jobs from locals. Inno­cents… An immigrant’s career path usu­ally looks like a bat­tlefield. First, your new home coun­try has to rec­og­nize degrees obtained abroad. Then comes the famous catch 22: until you have Cana­dian expe­ri­ence, it’s very hard to get a job. But until you’ve got a job, it’s dif­fi­cult to get Cana­dian expe­ri­ence. Works also for US expe­ri­ence etc. All in all, con­sider your­self lucky if you man­age to be above min­i­mum wage within a cou­ple of years. And don’t think immi­grants just can’t get a job because their Eng­lish or what­ever isn’t good enough, or because they don’t adapt. I’m French and speak both offi­cial lan­guages, and as a young French woman I think the cul­ture shock I expe­ri­enced wasn’t too bad. Yet, it took me a cou­ple of year to finally get paid over $10 an hour.

Insid­i­ous stereo­types… Chi­nese all live in Chi­na­town and don’t speak a word of Eng­lish (but they are apolo­getic and hard-working), Blacks wear huge gold chains and always carry a cou­ple of guns with them so that they can make head­lines, Russ­ian drink while play­ing cards in the back kitchen of some mafia-operated restau­rant, Arabs are either oil tycoons or bombers (the lat­est option being the cur­rent trend), Lati­nos are all ille­gal and deal drug…

Igno­rance is bliss. And scar­ing peo­ple has been our gov­ern­ments’ busi­ness for quite a while now. “They are going to attack us/invaded us/take our jobs/take our cul­ture away”. It’s much eas­ier to keep cit­i­zens angry and rest­less than solv­ing prob­lems, one at the time.

I some­times wish my world was black and white, it’d be eas­ier to take a side. Unfor­tu­nately, it’s rarely like that, and the topic of immigration is no excep­tion. Some immi­grants are bad peo­ple, some are oppor­tunist, and some are lazy. But the major­ity is just look­ing for a bet­ter life and a place to belong.

Immi­grants aren’t per­pet­ual for­eign­ers. Sooner or later, we become part of the coun­try. Will the charges be dropped then? Doubt it… unless peo­ple start to open their eye and see the world as it is, an imper­fect place full of good-will peo­ple will­ing to work it out together. Dreamer, me? Yeah, once again.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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