Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Getting Sent Home

© 2011 Johnny Domawa
All Rights Reserved

Somebody got sent home yesterday.

He worked in the company for more than four years and labored as men would who work for acceptance and a future but they gave him his walking papers without any funfare just like that.

Alberta and Canada’s new immigration laws are that rigid nowadays. And I am not proud to say that I saw its effects.

In the eyes of the law and legislation, in the eyes of the economy and the future, it might be the right thing to do. After all, there is a limit as to how many people Canada can accommodate and it will be a matter of time before the population exerts a strain on the government funds that will threaten healthcare and other basic benefits we take for granted.

But the human side is not something to sneer at. To see someone hunched over his desk stifling tears while knowing that it is his last day is tragic. To see him linger at the office while everyone else in his department had gone home as he takes pictures of every corner with an iPhone that he’d probably pawn back home. To see him open and reopen an outlook account he can never access again and to see him ignore the unopened farewell gift that is set aside on his table.

I still see him standing over one corner of the lab where I left him to catch my 7:30 bus. I could’ve given him a pat on the back but all I could manage was ‘thanks for the newspaper’ that I intentionally borrowed. I don’t know him much but one empathizes with his fate.

Coz that could happen to you…

I would wish that it was somebody else that was sent home, someone who just came in by virtue of a false marriage just to get a PR card. There are many and they wear towels on their heads and stink up the bus. I am not racist but you’ve gotta root for the guys that really deserve to be immigrants and not for those who pay twenty thousand bucks to get a marriage certificate and then a divorce after the end of two years just to get here.

I may never be in that situation, God willing. I’ve got, without any haughtiness at all, the coveted PR card that marks me as a resident sans the right to vote. And I passed through legal and rigorous screening to avail of it. And I will continually work for it for the rest of my life. I am an inhabitant of here right now, proud of two countries: one which gave birth to me and the other that has embraced me. 

He speaks about the plane ticket he bought home and of Malaysia’s wonder. But if you listen to his voice, you hear the pain there. There is apprehension about what his life would be now that he is forced to go back to a country he doesn’t know anymore. He maybe smiling in his farewell party but he is hiding the tears inside.

It is tough, you know that your life as you’ve known it is effectively over. There are no more Tim Horton breaks, or Calgary Sun deliveries. There are no more winter jackets which you now give to friends as you go back to a tropical climate. You surrender you bank cards and checkbooks and make arrangements for all of your money to be sent to another bank halfway around the world. You let go off your loonies and toonies by splurging on the dollar store to fill up that luggage you’ll send back. And you say goodbye to your friends who you’ll never meet again.

I could say that it will be better. That you would have a better life but I would be a hypocrite if I did. But it is not the end of the world (just feels  like it, probably). Live life and tackle every obstacle you meet. That’s all there is to it.

I am growing to love Calgary. I love Tim Horton’s tea and bagels and muffins. I love the small pizzeria just across the street from the W.R. Castell library. I love Value Village in Chinook and the WINS store along McLeod. I love the vibrant theatre clubs that dot downtown (but which I’ll probably never enter because I have no one to get in with). I love snow (but hate the cold when it drops to negative twenty and below). I love Fishcreek national park and the guys at Directions, Centre for Immigrants and CCIS. This is home for me now, for better or for worst. So I empathize with those who share my dreams and mourn with those who can not live it anymore.

The government will be stricter. Now, the number of skilled immigrants are limited to a thousand a year per profession. Contract workers are often not extended and are subject to voluntary and forced leave after the end of each contract and they cannot come back as easily anymore. Even pending petitions for family are taking their time with some visas denied at the last minute. It is a tough world out there and dreams and aspirations aren’t the only things squashed to mulch.

And meanwhile, towel heads continue to arrive in droves, brandishing false marriage papers.

Looking back at his forlorn form as I left the lab, I wished that there was a compatriot of his that would marry him to give him that PR card. But no one would and this Friday he will be on a plane bound for the uncertainty of a home country he doesn’t know anymore…

This is for you Mr. Kwang and for the others like you!

Ganbatte ne! Do your best!

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