We were about the same age. I was already a Canadian citizen, she was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and she had applied for permanent residence in Canada. She started commenting on this blog in 2013, I replied, and I interviewed her as part of the “immigrants series”.
I related to her situation. The process had been quick and relatively painless for me, but I remember the stress gathering the paperwork, the weird feeling when waiting for a life-changing decision, living out of a bag, a foot in each country. I felt for her. She updated me about the lengthy process along the way. I didn’t much to offer other than moral support and a few practical tips.
I’m not an immigration lawyer or a life coach. What I do best, I think, is chronicling life in Canada as openly and honestly as I can, the good and the bad. It is a narrow perspective, but occasionally people relate to it and I like when our paths and experiences intersect—these connections make us feel human.
She stayed in touch on Twitter and in comments, updating me about her latest immigration drama. A couple of times, I edited and proofed letters she sent to her visa office. I followed up with another interview.
In 2015, we met for a coffee in Buenos Aires. Mark was with me. I met a few “blog acquaintances” in person a few times and it’s usually a fun experience to cross the bridge from the digital to the physical world. She spoke fast, like many Latinas. She quizzed me about Canada, was anxious about her immigration process, asked me questions I couldn’t give an honest answer to—I had no idea why she was stuck in immigration limbo.
She asked me to write a “reference letter” that she would forward to the immigration office. When I came back to Canada, I did write it and mailed her a couple of signed copies along with a small Starbucks gift card—just a token of encouragement, payback for the coffee she had bought me in Buenos Aires.
She emailed back to say she wanted one of these “Canada” reusable shopping bags from Walmart. I didn’t commit. To be honest, I didn’t want to do too many favours, we weren’t that close. Besides, it was winter in Canada and I was busy trying to find daycare #3 for Mark, queuing at the Post Office wasn’t exactly a priority.
Eventually, she did get her permanent resident visa. She landed in Montreal last spring. I was genuinely happy for her. I like happy endings.
But the ending wasn’t so happy. She began to complain in comments on this blog:
It’s not like I’m bored in Montréal now….I’ve always been. Even when I came last year, I found this place sooo boring. Why would you be offended ? Montréal is boring. Any smaller city is even more boring. That’s the reality. And don’t get me started with small villages….
You know when you kill yoursel to learn both English and French before moving to Canada, and once here you start looking for work and they tell you that your main asset is that you speak…..Spanish ? FML ! xD
Montréal sucks. It’s a disgusting city. It’s dirty, the subway doesn’t work and they try to put the French up to your butt. Looks like a branch of Nigeria or sth in here. Black people who don’t shower, so with +40 degrees, you can imagine how cool it is to take the subway or the bus…..
At first, I was surprised. She had come to Canada once for a visit and she had spent years researching the country and planning for new life. It was a bit early to be cynical. I know the first few steps as a permanent can feel overwhelming… but she was very negative and her comment was simply racist. I didn’t know what to say. In one of my replies, I put it like this:
I think my reaction is because you’re so new here. Like, imagine someone who just landed his dream job after many many interviews. And then he starts the job and a month later, he hates it, he says it’s boring, doesn’t like his coworkers, etc. I would probably think “dude, you’ve barely started!” But if the same person would complain after working there for a few years, I would be more sympathetic, “yeah, maybe you’ve learned everything there was to learn, you probably need a new challenge.”
And then, last week, she left a comment on one of my Canada Day articles:
How dare you say “I truly think Canada is doing a great job integrating immigrants” ?? Are you a newcomer by any chance ?? Well, I am, and let me tell you they are not. At all !
I think you’d better listen right….lots of newcomers do complain about the country, you’re just not attached to them.
I’m not an idiot for complaining if the country isn’t treating me right. Maybe you’re, for idealizing a country that has many issues like any other country in the world.
Again, she took me by surprise. I replied.
Er… hello, we know each other, I was a newcomer at one point too! You’re entitled to your opinion but overall, compared to the “Old World” and many countries, I think Canada is doing a pretty good job of integrating new immigrants.
I’m not offended at all if you complain about Canada, it’s not personal and I have complaints too (sometime shifting through time).
However, I’m very surprised by your attitude. You went from “Canada is my dream” to… well, so many complaints over the past few months.
And then… Well, here a screenshot of the complete exchange below:
What hurt the most?
That she attacked me personally. That she went straight for my Achilles’ heel, Feng and Mark, whom she met. That she used me and turned so nasty and bitter. That she was so rude, racist and aggressive. All that for what?
Occasionally, I get an anonymous racist comment along the lines of “ah ah, Canada has way too many immigrants, we don’t need you!” I don’t even delete them, freedom of speech and all. I disagree, that’s all. Once I had an argument with a commenter who claimed I should burn my French passport, that I couldn’t possibly be loyal to France and Canada. But overall, in the past 15 years, the side effects of having a blog and an opinion were very mild.
But this time, it was personal. Too personal.
That night, a hundred thoughts went through my mind, mostly revolving around deleting this blog. I’ve seen blogs disappearing overnight or going private because of such interactions. I understand why now.
The following morning, I half expected to read a message from her, apologizing, explaining all the drama. Maybe she was drunk the night before. We all make mistake, right? Instead, I had several messages from people who had read the exchange and offered sympathy. Thank you.
She could have called me fat, ugly, ignorant—but no, she went straight for what would hurt the most, Mark. Cheap shot.
Then Nice happened, and now the coup in Turkey, and frankly, in the grand scheme of things, she is nothing to me. It sucks. I’d rather have friends than enemies. But I’m better off without her racist comments and all the drama.
I stand by my words—what goes around comes around.