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A Hiding Place Called Canada

Canada is not a land of milk and honey, but a land of closed curtains, electrified fences and gates, where we hide wounds of the past caused by class, culture, race, political affiliation, religion and gender.

We were born somewhere else, but safely live here.  Safely, because we don’t fear that the secret police will arrive at dawn, cart you away to an unknown destination, never to be seen again.  No one will set your house on fire because of religion or political affiliation.

However, not all outsiders are immigrants or refugees.  There are thousands of people who do not dream of carrying a Canadian passport because they are marking time, hiding in Canada until circumstances that forced them out of their countries disappear or are resolved.

Hiding in a country has a plus and minus.  The plus is that you can be incognito, with the assurance that with your short pants, flip flops and baseball cap, nobody will recognise you as the minister of environment who took bribes and allowed American hazardous waste to be deposited in the country’s rivers. 

You wear hooded black jackets in winter like the rest of the people in Montreal or Winnipeg, so people from your country cannot recognise you as the father-in-law who ordered his son’s wife to be burnt alive because she brought an insignificant dowry. The minus is that you are nobody.  You don’t have bodyguards or a religious title.  Nobody calls you sir or honourable.

What makes headlines are refugees and immigrants, not the thousands of people who are not interested in Canadian citizenship.  An immigration officer born and raised in Canada once told me that his Irish parents did not take Canadian citizenship.
“Do they travel on Irish passports?” I asked.

“No.  British passports.”
That was when the Irish carried British passports.  Therefore, to be or not to be Canadian is private and confidential. My apologies for tweaking Shakespeare.
By:  Nonqaba waka Msimang.


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