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Écrit par: Andrea

26 mai 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 4617 fois

Andrea Dawes works with refugees and other individuals in precarious immigration situations at Just Solutions, a legal information clinic of the Montreal City Mission.

The first sunny glimmers of spring were in the air, but March 31st 2010 was a dark day for Canada’s refugee determination system and for the people whose lives depend on it.  Jason Kenney, Canada’s immigration minister, tabled what the government has labeled the “Balanced Refugee Reform Act” in the House of Commons.  Unfortunately for the thousands of refugee claimants who arrive in Canada each year, Minister Kenney’s proposals to completely overhaul the refugee determination system tip the balance scales far away from our country’s traditional reputation as a safe haven for individuals fleeing persecution.

As I write, the proposed bill is barreling its way through the parliamentary committee stage of approval.  Numerous refugee rights organizations, as well as many opposition MPs, have voiced their concerns to the committee.  Unfortunately, many Canadian citizens, whose voices are crucial to such an opposition process, haven’t had the opportunity to meaningfully engage in the current debate.  Many of us, busy with our daily lives, are ripe prey for damaging media sound bites and rarely hear the real, compelling and complex stories of refugees in our midst.  Minister Kenney’s press team often employs damaging terminology (for example, “bogus” vs. “real” refugees), rejoicing in the “improvements” this bill would make to the refugee system while ignoring the real potential impact of these changes on people’s lives. 

The proposed bill does include some positive changes, long fought for by the refugee advocacy community.  For example, a reduced waiting period for refugee determination hearings and the introduction of a Refugee Appeal Division.  However, the reach of these changes is extremely restrictive, with little allowance for the diversity of human experience that individuals fleeing persecution bring with them on their journey.

Imagine the following scenarios. Under the proposed bill, a gang-rape victim suffering from post-traumatic stress is forced to share the complete details of her unspeakable experience with a complete stranger within 8 days of her arrival in a strange land; is obliged, within 60 days, to gather the required proof from a war-torn country and give a complete testimony in front of the federal civil servant who would then be the sole decision-maker of her claim (the first instance decision-maker would no longer be an independent member of the Immigrant and Refugee Board).  A victim of persecution from a country on the newly proposed “safe country” list would, on the sole basis of his or her citizenship, be denied a real right to appeal a negative decision.  (Specific criteria for the determination of so-called “safe countries” has not yet been determined; how can a “safe country” be distinguished in a world constantly plagued by violence and corruption?)  If the proposed legislation is accepted, these are some of the lives that would hang in the balance.

Canada is the only nation to have received, in 1986, the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award, given annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for outstanding service to the cause of refugees.  I am proud of this distinction, received by the then-Governor General on behalf of “the people of Canada”.  I am extremely proud of the Canadian refugee advocacy community’s constant efforts to safeguard every individual’s basic human right to asylum. And, as a Canadian citizen, I am ashamed of the worrying direction our current government is taking with regards to our international obligation to protect this right.

Please take a moment to visit the very informative website of the Canadian Council for Refugees for an informed and “human” analysis of the proposed bill:  To stay up-to-date about refugee rights issues and join the ranks of AiDDA, the Association of Individuals for the Defense of the Right to Asylum, please follow the following link:  As non-citizens, present and future refugees cannot lend their political voices to the fight.  If you share their and my concerns, please join us in bringing them to the forefront of the debate.

Écrit par: Simon

18 mai 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1488 fois

Vie et mort de l’espèce humaine : l’ovule, la lumière et les cigognes migrent, créent la vie; les continents, les caillots et les barbares migrent aussi, créent la mort. Entre ces limbes, des quarante coins de l’univers, les humains et les âmes se déplacent et se remplacent.

Quand les corps meurent, les âmes déménagent. L’athée sédentaire, éternel devant l’Éternel, est aveugle à ce cortège aérien ; l’immigrant, compagnon de la fatalité, en fait partie intégrante. Souvent il est mort chez lui : de misère, de persécution, de guerre, de cataclysme. Sa famille, ses amis, son amour, ils sont morts avant lui. Leurs âmes voyagent désormais dans de nouveaux corps, sous d’autres cieux. Il est seul dans l’abri de ses pensées.

Une poursuite sans retour s’impose alors: l’immigrant ira où ses âmes s’en sont allés.

Il s’exile dans l’espoir de retrouver son âme enfuie et l’esprit des siens. Il part pour reconnaître là-bas, dans un visage inconnu, un air familier, le fantôme d’un sourire. Mais quelles formes auront prises ceux qu’il aimait, quel destin auront-ils épousés ? Migrer à l’instinct. Il voit les moutons passer des champs à la montagne, de l’herbe au ciel; l’anguille filer du fleuve à la mer; l’humus entrer toujours plus en terre. Lui, où doit-il se trouver ?

Il signe cent formulaires, multiplie son identité, se perd en conjectures : on lui demande de justifier son existence, de prédire la vie de son double dans un pays inconnu. La foi seule lui permet de répondre aux questions métaphysiques des agents de bureau.

Fatigué, il rêve qu’il nage dans l’océan, la nuit, nu, et sur ce noir miroir au bout de ses yeux scintille une constellation de navires, flotte dont les feux s’étirent jusqu’à ses bras battants, son cœur battant, et dans l’effort vers la lumière son oeil plonge au fond de la mer, qu’il voit alors clair comme le jour, vide comme le ciel, traversé de nuages et d’oiseaux qui tirent, comme une banderole à leur bec, une corde à linge chargée de vêtements : les manches vides, qui ondulent, semblent le saluer.

Cette image revient à l’esprit de l’immigrant quelques années plus tard, alors qu’il marche seul, dans une ruelle de sa nouvelle ville. Des ribambelles de vêtements flottent au-dessus de sa tête. Costumes sans corps, âmes envolées. Il n’a pas retrouvé ici la dernière incarnation des siens. Il se demande parfois ce que lui-même est devenu.

Le vent balaie la ruelle, une chemise tombe du ciel. Un chat emprunte les pas de l’immigrant.

Écrit par: Alan Bourassa

18 mai 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1748 fois

The recent debates on the burqa in France and Quebec point to a uniquely contemporary problem: the strange short-circuits we encounter today between the private and the public. I do not mean to be perversely provocative when I draw comparisons between the burqa debate and the popularity of more and more lurid kinds of reality television, but I do see a kind of underground connection that may clarify both our notions of privacy today and the disproportional anxiety that the burqa seems to cause to secular society, whether in Europe or North America.

We live today in a media culture in which the notion of privacy seems quaint and outdated. Teenage celebrities are sure to be at the center of sex-tape or sexting scandals; we are fascinated by people like Tiger Woods with unique and extraordinary talents, not for those remarkable talents, but for the banal sexual appetites (always for porn stars and cocktail waitresses, the poutine of the sexual world) that make them just like any of us. We assume that the only good conversations are confessional ones. And even those of us with some shred of decorum left are still not averse to posting private thoughts as our Facebook tag lines. This is not, however, a lament over the loss of some paradise of privacy and integrity. Back in the sixties, my farmer uncle in New Brunswick had a party-line telephone that he shared with six other households. I can vouch for the fact that people — even stolid maritime farm-folk — were gossip-mongers even before Big Brother and Entertainment Tonight hit the airwaves. No, rather I am mapping out the advent of a new form of communal life: what we might call the “public-private.”

We are all familiar with the “public-private.” It is that area of private emotional life (what used to be private life, at any rate) that is now fodder for prurient entertainment, the private dragged — or tossed — into the public sphere. The “public-private” is only interested in those aspects of private emotional life that are the most titillating, the most primitive, the most ridiculous. We want to know about adulteries, distasteful habits (a recent posting on Huffington Post discussed Jessica Simpson’s lack of dental hygiene), emotional blowups, domestic quarrels. In the realm of the “public-private” we care nothing for those aspects of emotional life that are more subtle: those moments of regret, the badly incorporated bits of grief that are the result of any life lived beyond infancy, the small centers of love and joy around which even the most despised life tries to orbit. We don’t want to know about those. We are even a bit embarrassed to encounter true privacy, true interiority. We will continue to be satisfied with the spectacles of lust and hypocrisy to which we have become accustomed.

This is why the public display of the Burqa is so disturbing. In the wearer of the burqa, we do not encounter the amusing “public-private,” but something far more disturbing: the “private public,” the woman who, appearing in public, nevertheless demands and enacts a deep privacy, a reserve that can only be destabilizing for those who encounter it, especially those for whom the concept of privacy has become a punch-line.

The first protest against the burqa, always ridiculous, is that it threatens public safety by hiding identity. Never mind that such laws always include exceptions for festive occasions (where the crowds present a ripe target for a masked terrorist). If the burqa represents a threat from radical Islam, is it not just the opposite of an attempt to hide identity, to slip unnoticed past the safety nets? Does it not represent, from a military standpoint, the exact opposite of camouflage? If the enemy is the one wearing the burqa, will we not see them coming a mile away?

Jean Francois Copé, in a recent interview with The Economist, reveals more truthfully the source of burqa-anxiety:

We consider in France…when we talk about brotherhood, fraternity, we need to know a little bit about the other one….When you meet someone on the street that you don’t know, the first thing is to shake hands and to smile. When you smile to someone and you cannot see if the other one answer to your smile because you cannot see his face, you just miss the first part of his identity and this is why we think that this is not consistent with the values of democracy, of liberty, of respect.

What Copé is describing here is the anxiety of encountering the face that insists on keeping itself to itself. It is the encounter with the “private public” self, with the person who insists on participating in all the necessary activities of public life without taking on the additional burden of doing so in a way that will reassure the most anxious of us that there is a “warm human self” under the veil. The wearing of the burqa is, indeed, an implicit rejection of the right we have accorded ourselves of entering uninvited into the emotional lives of others. Copé’s implicit assumption here is “How can I accord you any democratic rights if you do not reveal yourself to me?” as if the right to equality under the law depends upon emotional confession. Such a confession, crucial between lovers and friends, has never been a necessary condition for democracy. Indeed, when Robert Frost subtly disparages the New England wisdom that “good fences make good neighbours” he seems less wise today then he did when “Mending Wall” was first published. The walls that protect our privacy, that set a part of our lives aside for those we choose to let in, are in need of mending.

This is why, despite the tiny minority of Muslim women who wear the burqa (only 2000 of a million and a half adult Muslim women in France), the appearance of the burqa in public so scandalizes our sense of the normal. We can accept the vulgarity of the “public private” with its carnivalesque divorce trials and feuds between drug-addled celebrities. We are not disturbed by this form of public display. What does disturb us is the presence in our midst of a deep privacy, the “private public” self that will not play our game, and whose commitment to privacy in a world of voyeurs cannot but appear to us as at once an affront and profoundly enviable.

Écrit par: admin

07 mai 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1298 fois

I left my father’s assisted living flat white as a ghost. I was carrying a document I had just found there that held some very personal information. For as long as I could remember people were asking me - as an adoptee, if I didn’t want to search out my birth parents and if not, then why. The answer was simple - who gives a shit! I’m not saying I’m angry about it. And this ain’t the fucken Oprah show, so we aren’t gonna be out the handkerchiefs. It just was what it was, and it didn’t come as a shock to me like it does to people that only find out the truth of their adoptions as adults. I knew all about it from the very beginning. The only shock was that I found information without searching and now it was. before me: just like that.

I was in a bit of a rush that day, as my old friend L. was in Montreal from New York and had invited me to come see a Reggae show at Les Bobards. For this reason the document remained unopened.

We had met while attending the same moronic Jewish institution known as Herziliah High School. Strike that - attending is the wrong word. We met while avoiding the place like the fucking plague! To this day I want to sue these shmucks. What kind of high school in Quebec divides it’s daily curriculum up like this - Hebrew, Jewish history, English Lit., Prophets, Math, Talmud, and finally, French. That might hurt a young man in the workplace, n’est ce pas? There was a similar high school in town called Bialik, but over there they taught you Yiddish too. With that under your belt at least you could negotiate with your Nazi captors or find a decent job in the garment industry!

When I walked into the bar L. was already seated and had ordered us up some beers. I guzzled mine down before even making a proper greeting.

‘What’s this? What’s wrong now?’ she asked.

She knew all about my history so it didn’t take much explaining. ‘Give me that fucking thing! Let’s see what it says.’ I gave it to her.

‘This is how they did secrecy in the 60’s!? Liquid paper!! That’s shoddy work!’

Both my parent’s names and mine were all whited out on the document. L. made short work of scratching the gunk off with her fingernail as I anxiously watched. Now, there had always been a question as to my true heritage. Not just on my part, but amongst everyone that had ever seen or heard that I was uncircumcised. Not only that, but due to certain facial features some people were certain I had First Nations blood coursing through my veins, an idea that I found quite enchanting. I often dreamt of walking up to some paleface asshole and telling him that he spoke with forked tongue.

L. began laughing.

‘What is it?’

‘I’ll tell you what it is Christopher.’


‘Your real name, its Christopher Leslie Silzer, har!’

I just stood there flabbergasted. That was the fruitiest name I ever heard. So much for hanging out on the rez.  Nope; now I needed to go out and buy a dress and get my pussy waxed instead.

The Reggae band came on stage.  Appropriately to my mood, the group’s name was Inwards.

Écrit par: Alan Bourassa

28 avril 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1309 fois

Multiculturalism depends upon the explicitly stated desire to be together. This desire is the public face of the multicultural ideal. It says “Let’s talk to each other. You tell me about your way of doing things and I’ll tell you about mine. I’ll eat your cooking and you eat mine. I’ll do a dance on your holiday and you light a candle on mine.” Without this public proclamation of good will (and the proclamation must be not only public but ongoing; it doesn’t count unless it is proclaimed as a regular part of our public discourse) there could be no understanding between cultures, races, language groups, religious beliefs. We all know this.

What we may not know is that there is another side to this open invitation into our lives. There is another proclamation, not so public, but enacted in public every day by every one of us. That proclamation is “Leave me alone.” Just as we cannot live together unless we are open to being together, we can also not live together if we don’t know when to back off. Another name for this knowledge is “tact.”

Last month I had a tactless encounter, one that we have all had and handled with varying degrees of diplomacy. My doorbell rang and when I answered the door I was met with two very unwelcome things: an icy breeze and a religious enthusiast who felt obliged to share with me the knowledge that I was not living correctly. I informed him that, thank you, but I have also thought about these issues, have taught the Bible and have come to my own conclusions and to my own philosophy. In other words, “Thanks, but I don’t want to talk to you.” He then proceeded to inform me (while I was politely trying to close the door and wish him better luck at the next house, and trying to bear the blast of cold air chasing all the expensive heat from my apartment) that he was not talking about a “philosophy” (a word that he pronounced with a definite sneer) but a “belief.” I countered with “I’ll tell you what I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in aggressive proselytizing.”  The last word stunned him long enough for me to close the door.

In my imagined version of the conversation I say this: “You think I am living my life in an incorrect manner. I believe that you are delusional. I believe your assumption that you have access to the mind of God is arrogant and in direct contradiction to your purported humility. I believe that your arrogance is a step away from a dangerous aggression, and I think that you are wasting your life and doing more harm than good. So we both believe that the other is wrong. But here is the difference between you and me: I don’t knock on your door to inform you that I believe you are wrong. I respect your privacy and your right to have this delusional belief.”

This encounter has brought home to me the need for tact in a society where we all live together. When I say that we practice this skill every day, I mean that we navigate our lives in the close- packed urban world knowing when to give each other space. We understand when not to make eye contact, when to ignore behavior, when it is appropriate to have those small limited exchanges that make modern life more agreeable. Mostly, we understand how not to make ourselves burdensome to others. So, far from decrying the alienation that is a part of the modern world, we should see in it our salvation.

The hard truth of multiculturalism is that we only embrace the easy parts. It is no real moral challenge for me as an agnostic to light a candle at midnight and listen to the Greek Orthodox priest announce the resurrection of Christ. It is easy to like world music. It is more than easy to love Singapore Noodles. Food, music, holidays: if these were the whole of multiculturalism, it would not create such passion. The uncomfortable part of a multicultural society is when we  believe that others are living not just differently, but incorrectly. I believe that your culture does not show women respect. You believe that my culture shows no respect for proper authority. I believe that you are a slave to tradition. You believe that I don’t really care about my family. We can’t wholeheartedly embrace those aspects of the other that clash with our own sense of right and wrong. So what are we to do?

We already know the answer: leave each other alone. We know we won’t convert each other, so we will just have to ignore those parts of each other’s cultures that we can’t agree with. As in any socially awkward situation we will practice diplomacy, look the other way. The paradox of multiculturalism is that it is only possible where there is a unifying belief to which any culture can subscribe. Finding such a belief is next to impossible if we are looking for some particular proposition that we can all agree to. It is, however, much easier when the statement that we agree to is “None of us will break the law, but I’ll do what I do, and you do what you do.”  It is only when we demonstrate this tact to each other that we can ever hope to gain the trust that would allow us to ask questions of each other, challenge, debate. But we must learn to do so not by knocking on a closed door but by having the skill not to go where we are not invited.

Écrit par: Hilary

19 avril 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1462 fois

Blame it on the Turks. Blame it on the Turks, and their fascinating ability to stuff things into things, and those things into cans. Delicious things. Into other, equally tasty things. Into dangerous, predatory cans. What the hell am I talking about? Well, allow me to digress. Or regress, as I haven’t started into my story yet.

I take you back to an average night lo some several weeks ago. I had been working all day at home, typing, researching, outfitting my fingers with a full set of wolverine claws-slash-multi-coloured paperclips, when I got to thinking, “hey little lady - you deserve a night on the town.” A look through the film listings produced a much buzzed-about documentary. “Yes,” I thought, “what a perfect way to start the evening. A feature-length exposé on a genius, anti-social shut-in who somehow escaped notice until a desperate twenty-something needed a quirky subject for his fourth year film project.”

But maudit-merde-caribou! The film was starting in 30 minutes, and I had yet to eat dinner. I needed something good. Something fast.  Something un-ten-dollar-movie-popcorn-ish. So, I did what every reclusive genius does (who hasn’t shopped for groceries in a fortnight,) and went to my kitchen cupboard. The magical cupboard of “why-did-I-buy-that-oh-yeah-it-was-on-clearance-oh-wait-let-me-first-check-the-expiry-date.” Mmm-mmm. Luckily, my two-weeks ago self was on fire in the aisles, because hallelujah! A perfectly well-dated can of dolmas. Full of rice! And mint! And “courgettes” (which, let’s be honest, sounds far more enticing than your garden-variety zucchini)! These particular dolmas were, as I knew from a past encounter, each topped with the most beguiling little red cap, like a yarmulke made out of the tail-end of a tomato. Except tomatoes (or yarmulkes) didn’t make an appearance on the label. Oh well-no matter! Oily courgettes crammed with rice and topped with a red mystery ingredient would give me the perfect amount of strength to sit still for two hours.

I tucked my finger under the can’s pull-tab, and yanked. I yanked with all my might. I yanked, and I yanked, and I - yes, you know me too well - yanked some more. But still, my little dolmas remained stubbornly entombed. “OK,” I reckoned, “one more yank should do it. Otherwise, it’s wholemeal rusks dipped in Marmite for me.”

“YAAAAAAAR!” I bellowed, summoning the power of Greyskull. “Pwop-tch!” replied the can, with the acquiescence of stubborn colon, finally giving way.


Oh, my good Goddamn.

The thin, tin, razor-edged top had sliced deep into my thumb.

DOOOOOOLLMAAAS! How could you?! I trusted you!!! With my heart, my hunger, and yes, even the supple, yielding flesh of my digits (with which I was planning to eat you!)

I vigorously shook my hand to diffuse the pain. Blood sprayed everywhere. It splattered on the oven. It streaked over the fridge. It dripped down the once peerless ecru of my walls.

My kitchen looked like a murder scene. It looked like a slasher film. It looked like Carrie had come, experienced her menses, and left.

Shocked and awed (and now pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to the cinema on time,) I wrapped my thumb up in a roll’s worth of paper towel. I stumbled over to the phone, dialed 8-1-1, and prayed for a calm, reassuring voice. Turned out I could take my time petitioning the divine, as Quebec’s healthcare hotline put me on hold for a full twenty-five minutes.


Fine. Great-anything to make this go faster. I appuyer-ed.

“Euh oui, bonjour. Quel est ton probleme?”

“Oh, hi! Hello! OK, well, you see, I cut through my finger, er, my thumb, actually.”

“Is most of the thumb still there, Madame?”

“Oh! Yes, yes, yes. I haven’t cut it straight off. Just, uh, through it.”

“Can you see bone, Madame?”

“I can’t see anything at all. I’ve got it swaddled tighter than a day-old baby.”

“S’ecuse moi? Un bébé?”

“No - sorry. Not a baby. I’ve wrapped the thumb in paper towel, so I can’t see the injury.”

“Ah, OK. I see. Well Madame, I don’t want you undoing your towels - you need to keep those on to, uh, make the blood hard.”


“Um, yes. I see. Well, actually, I was phoning you to ask about tetanus.”

“Tennis? Non, non, Madame. You should not do tennis tonight…”

“No, no - TET-TA-NUS.”

“Quoi? TEH-TAAA…aahh, OK. TIT-ta-nouuuuse. Bon. Continue.”

“Well, the thing is, I haven’t gotten a booster shot since I was nine.”

“Ah no. This is very bad. Mais, attend - how many years do you have?”

“Many more than nine.”

“I see.”

“So I was wondering if I should be worried. Should I be?”

“With what did you cut your thumb?”

“A can. Of dolmas.”

“Doh..doh-mais? Dommage?”

“No, DOH-LE-M…oh, it doesn’t matter. I cut my thumb open on an imported tin can.”

“Import? D’ou?”

“From Turkey, I’m pretty sure.”

“Oh, tsk, tsk. Non, non, non - they don’t have the same standards.”

“For tin cans?”

“For everything. OK, bon - you need Tit-ta-nouse. And maybe also des points.”

“Also wha’? But wait - can I get my booster now, and be protected against the disease?”

“Uh, I think so. Attend un minute…”

I could hear the rapid-fire clickity-clack of computer keys. Maybe “tit-ta-nouse” doesn’t come up very often. But the woman on the other end was supposed to be a nurse - don’t nurses routinely deal with flesh wounds? For Christ’s sake, I could’ve looked this up on the internet myself, had I not wanted to smear gore all over my Macbook Pro.

“OK. It say here you got four days.”

“Four days for what?”

“Four days to get shot.”

“But what if things start going south before I, er, get shot? What are the symptoms?”

“Oh no, Madame. You should get tit-ta-nouse.”

“Yes, OK, all right. I promise to get it. But just in case I lose consciousness tonight because all the blood has drained away from my brain and out through my thumb and I don’t have the wherewithal to get to the clinic until tomorrow, what does tetanus feel like?’

“Oh. You want to know how it make you sick?”

“Yes. Please. I beg of you.”

“OK. It say here that your throat close. Et tes muscles, they get tight…stiff. Bad. And, oh - no moving. Yes, it say here that it will be difficult for moving.”

Well, I’d imagine with my breathing passage cut off, there wouldn’t be much chance of a tap dancing career…

“Any more question?”

“No, thank you. You’ve been, um, well, yes.”

“OK - merci d’avoir applez Info Sante. Bonne Chance.”

Right. Good luck. I’ll be needing that. Along with another roll of Bounty. Anyone? Anyone? Little help, here….

(*In order to help out our hard done by heroine, proceed on to Part Two!)

Écrit par: Hilary

18 avril 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1296 fois

I woke up the next morning to the blare of a terrible cartoon. I’d fallen asleep on the couch, clutching my thumb, trying to stem the flow of blood that was bent on experiencing the world outside. Rising(-ish), I wobbled off to the bright lights of the bathroom. What greeted me in the mirror was a beyond a sorry sight.  Nevermind that I was still dressed in the same stained, crumpled clothing from the night before, or that my sticky-uppy hair had somehow gotten involved in the whole gruesome ordeal (what holds a style better than pomade? Plasma, apparently…) - the paper towel and dried blood had metastasized into one large, hard, crusted-on cast. A large, hard, crusted-on cast that was now refusing to separate from its organic, living host.

“Why didn’t I take you to the hospital?” I cooed to my papier-mâché monstrosity. “Why didn’t I just hop in a cab and…oh yeah. My health card.”

Funny how things hit you in the light of day…er, bathroom.  See, my reluctance to slide on over to the Royal Vic or Montreal General or even “The Jewish” (as they call it here) was due in part to the fact that I do not possess a valid health card for the province of Quebec. Now, why don’t I possess said important piece of identification/insurance? Well, for several reasons, which I will proceed to list here:

1)    I am one lazy SOB: Yes, I have been in this province for several years. And yes, I have required medical, and even emergency attention while living here. And because I am still considered an Ontarioian (I really don’t know what we’re called…), it has always cost me dearly for that attention. But has this prompted me to go and get my “Carte de l’assurance maladie”? No. No it has not. Because getting said card may take two, maybe three hours out of my day. Two (or three) hours that I could better spend looking at things like this: So screw that.

2)    I am also one obstinate, self-righteous SOB: Here’s the deal: I live in Canada, where there is supposed to be free, universal (re: socialized) healthcare coverage. Our southerly neighbours remind us of that constantly. And yes, for the most part, the system works. FOR THE MOST PART. However, should you be from one province, and require medical care in another, you may just have to pay for it. Sorta. But only sometimes. And if the proper forms are sent from one province to another, proving that you’ve paid for your care, you may just get all of your money back. Though there are times when you will only get some of it. And there are other times when you’ll receive none at all. Confusing? Yessir. Not fair? You betcha. Here’s a couple of illustrative examples, taken from my own uncoordinated, sickly existence:

A)   “Golly gee, those Maritime folk are swell!”: I was on a shoot that took me across parts of Eastern Canada. After being forced to stand outside in the blustery, seaside cold of Halifax Harbour for over two hours (without heavy-duty, winter attire or warm boots - we were only supposed to film inside that day), I managed to come down with not one, but two earaches. After a couple of 16-hour workdays, and very little sleep, I was in so much bloody pain, I’se justs couldn’t stands its no more. So, that night, I implored a production assistant to drive me to a clinic. Any clinic. Which he did. A-N-Y clinic.

I became a bit confused by all the twists and turns we had taken (and the big, dark parking lot we eventually found ourselves in.) “Oh, we’re just on the edge of town,” assured the PA, “but don’t worry-the taxis come out here pretty often. They’ll take you back when the doctors are done fixin’ yuh.”

Upon waving the young PA a feeble adieu, I shambled inside the looming Sobey’s Superstore, passed the produce (”Oooo-apples for 79 cents a pound!”), and went straight through the clinic’s door.

“WHAT’S WRONG WIT’ YA?” barked the receptionist, who wasn’t exactly thrilled to see a new patient at 9:15PM, when a posted sign clearly read, “WE CLOSE AT 9:30PM SHARP!!!”  “Uuuuumm, my…BWAAAAHHH!” I bawled, unable to maintain my stiff-upper-lipped façade any longer.

“Oh, c’mon now. Stop yer cryin’. Here-just give me yer health card…”

“Sniff…sniff…OK. But I’m from Ontario. It’s an OHIP card.”

“Oh yeah. That’s fine.”

“So…sniff…sniff…HONK! How much will this visit cost?”

“Cost? What cost? Yer Canadian, aren’t yuh? Why would it cost?”


B)   “Just relax, dude, uh, darling…”: It’s a long story, but for the purposes of this interlude, all you really need to know is that I twisted my ankle during a little sojourn in Vancouver. While doing the frug. With a drag queen named Coco. Who was not dressed in drag at the time. But who still insisted on being called Coco. OK, all right - enough. Leave it to be said that I needed to go to the hospital, where I was told by the admin staff that, yes, I would have to pay fees for my visit. So I paid around a hundred and twenty upfront, with the understanding that I might have to dole out more, depending on the severity of the injury (and the resulting treatment.) Three hours, four x-rays, and many tissues soaked through later, it turned out that I had a bad sprain. Nothing that a few weeks on crutches and some Advil wouldn’t fix. I hobbled out the sliding glass doors of St. Paul’s with the vague promise of a re-imbursement of indefinite amount, mailed to me after an indeterminate period of time.

Do you think I ever received said re-imbursement cheque?


Am I bitter?

C’mon - that’s like asking if Coco ever wore sequins.

3) If they call it “universal coverage”, then I should be able to go across the Great Canadian Universe, and be covered: Now, I’m not some big city lawyer. I don’t understand the ins and outs of federal versus provincial healthcare jurisprudence (hell, I’m not even quite sure what “jurisprudence” means). I don’t actually know where my token sixty, eighty or two-hundred dollar “you-don’t-come-from-’round-these-parts” clinic/hospital visitation fees go to (the receptionist’s donut fund? Those atrocious posters for hepatitis vaccines? It couldn’t possibly pay for the doctor’s time - if I have learned anything from watching Michael Moore “documentaries”, it is that my actual, unsubsidized layout for care would be in the high hundreds, if not thousands). All’s I know is that as a Canadian, I pay into a progressive national healthcare plan in some way (through my taxes? Through my wages? Through the ether?), and I want (nay, demand…no, OK-want) to be covered. I should not have to shell out a dime for basic assistance. No matter what province or territory I live in, travel to, or break something in. No matter if I flash an OHIP card, a MIP card, or a Don Cherry Fan Club card. I’m a democratic-socialist, Goddamn it! Give me my cradle to grave (and Salt Spring to Cape Breton) coverage!

4)    And yeah. Taxes:  Now, this isn’t my reason, but it could be. If I understood provincial tax law better. See, I have a friend from out west. Let’s call her…. “Westie.” Westie, like myself, lives in Montreal but refuses to get her Quebec health card.  She does so because she claims that at the end of the year, her taxes would be much, much higher as a “citizen of Quebec” (which you have to become, if you want to be covered health insurance-wise by the province). Westie claims that even with the odd clinic fee she has to endure, she is saving a butt load of money by continuing to maintain her Albertan status. She also gets keep her Alberta driver’s license with the “cute make-up/good-hair-day/coy-smile” picture that she loves so much. And how often does a nice driver’s license photo come along in a person’s life? Not very often, let me tell you.

Now, with all these (somewhat valid, probably not so much) reasons in mind, you must begin to understand my reluctance to get treatment for my thumb (and impending death-by-lockjaw). However, not wanting to curtail my existence (in this, or any other province) just yet, I decided, “bah!  The hell with money!”, I was going to get in line at the clinic.

(*Throw caution to the wind, and read on!  Part Three of this exciting tale is just a click away…)

Écrit par: Hilary

17 avril 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1528 fois

This’ll be quick, I swear. Unlike the actual experience. Of going to the CLSC. Which cost me a chunk of change, three and a half hours, and momentarily, my pride. Are you still in? OK-here we go. Quick like.

So as you know (from reading the other parts of this epic in proper order….riiiight? Riiiiight?) I totally messed up my thumb, which required some medical assistance, which I (sorta, kinda, and in all honesty, in spite of all my whingeing, not really) was reluctant to get. Off I went to the closest clinic around, where I immediately regretted going, as at least three-quarters of the waiting room were bent over, coughing and heaving into their (required because of the potential threat of pig flu) facemasks. Crap. I just knew I would go in to get my thumb attended to, and walk out with a deadly parting gift.

But forward onward ho, to the signing of forms, the paying of cash, the explaining of my situation, and the (relatively useless) attempts to both charm and arouse sympathy in the young receptionist who was probably relieved to write something other than “suspected H1N1″ on the docket.

“All things considered, you’ll probably be up in an hour.”

An hour?

“Yes, an hour.”


And just like clockwork, I got called up to the plate. Two and a half hours later.

The nurse berated me for not going to the hospital earlier. The doctor came in, and did the same thing. I found out that “des points” were stitches, and I should’ve gotten some the night prior. They broke out the hypodermic needle and tetanus vaccine with (much too) much glee. “Hé ben,” said the nurse, “we haven’t done this in a while….”


“Qu est-ce qui y a? Is there a problem?”


“OOOOOHH ! Êtes-vous une pleurnicheuse ?! Avez-vous peur des aiguilles ?!”

“Noooo! I am not a crybaby! But, er, yes - I am not a big fan of needles, and was wondering if you had the vaccine in one of those strips with the micro delivery system I saw on CNN Health Live…”

“Seine quoi? Micro dee-live…”

“Nevermind. Forget it. Just go ahead and poke me.”

I closed my eyes and thought of England.

And their National Health System.

And the fact that an injured person from Devon could probably flash their health card at a clinic in Essex and not have to pay a red cent.

But then again, they might have to explain what they’re doing in Essex.

There’s always a cost for care.

“Et voila!”

While I was busy with the British, the nurse had administered the tetanus shot, disinfected the wound, stuck my thumb back together with 3M sticker “stitches” (See? The future of medicine does not have to involve needles! There are other ways!), and wrapped everything up in a cloud of gauze.

“Just keep it clean. Et sec. Tell your boyfriend he has to wash your dishes for the next two weeks.”

“Um, could you write that out as a prescription? He won’t believe me without a doctor’s note…”

After the settling of more accounts (a tetanus shot for ten dollars? By jiminy, that’s a bargain!), I walked out into the failing light of day (it was the deep of winter, after all), and began conversing with my well-bandaged thumb mummy;

“See? It wasn’t so bad. You’ll heal up and be as good as new in…well, no pressure. You take your time. I’ve paid good money for your care. Why, I bet you were better attended to than those second-tier losers, who expected free, expert service at the drop of a card. Hah. The joke’s on them.”

EPILOGUE: Sadly, the joke really is on Quebec. On March 30TH, 2010, the Charest government announced a highly controversial plan to introduce user fees for public health care services. These fees will be based on citizens’ visit/appointment frequency, which is a clear attack on the most vulnerable individuals in society - pregnant women, the chronically ill, and aged. Through a dubious legal loophole in the Canadian Health Act (enacted in 1984), a senior advisor (who clearly doesn’t understand the ins and outs of karmic return) in the Charest cabinet found a potential way to pump 500 million back into a (terribly mismanaged) system laden with deficit.

I should clarify, however, that this move only seems to violates the SPIRIT of the Canadian Health Act, and not the act itself. The proposal skirts the law by not charging per medical visit, but by levying a lump sum come income tax time.

I’m sure cancer patients will take much comfort in this technicality.

Écrit par: Giovanna Nicolo

06 avril 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 2272 fois

Empress Deeqa is her stage name - Deeqa is her name. The 31 year old Montreal based reggae artist came to Canada as a refugee at the age of 11. Rewind back to 1991, Deeqa was attending a music lesson in a town on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. She left her lesson only to find mayhem in the streets. Homebound, Deeqa was seized by one of her teachers and urged to get on a bus. She asked why she could not return home to her family in Mogadishu. That’s when she learned that there was no going back. The civil war had begun and right in front of her, her own teacher was killed. Amid the pandemonium Deeqa boarded the bus.  They made the perilous jouney to the town of  Kismayo and eventually to a refugee camp in Kenya. It was the people at Doctor’s Without Borders that helped the young girl make her way to Canada. Grateful to have been rescued from the carnage, Deeqa now was haunted by the fact that there was no reuniting with her family. The war had displaced people and there was no way to find them. Since 1991, Deeqa has rebuilt a life as a reggae singer and songwriter here in Canada,  all the while holding on to the memory of her mother, brothers and sister -  not knowing whether they were alive or dead. And then one day, in March of this year, she received a phone call that would change her life. A nephew who had made his way to Great Britain found a video of Deeqa performing on youtube. He managed to put her family in touch with her. Elated, Deeqa soon wondered what to do from here - unable to travel to Mogadishu for security reasons (the war rages on to this day), they are now trying to plan how and when to see each other again. Deeqa dreams of bringing her family to Canada though financial constraints impede any plans at the moment. For more info about Deeqa visit her facebook page, Empress deeqa.

Let us know if you have any stories about how you came to Canada.

Écrit par: Alan Bourassa

09 mars 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1318 fois

One of the most profound yet mysterious claims of psychoanalysis is that “our desire is always the other’s desire.” Like many truths, this one flies in the face of common sense. “My desire,” I want to argue, “is my own. It involves me and only me. It is what is most private and intimate about me, and if I do not own my desires, I do not truly own myself.” And that statement would be true if I lived in the glorious isolation of the solipsist. But it is a position that falls apart the moment it is subjected to the test of real life. My desires are not my own. In some uncanny way, the desires of others — their dreams, their goals, their fantasies — lend texture and shape and color to my own.

This lesson came home to me a few years ago when I was showing a friend of mine from Japan around Montreal. I have come to the terms with the fact that I am constitutionally incapable of showing people this city without beaming with enthusiasm and pride every moment. We had just visited Notre-Dame Basilica and were walking east toward Place Jacques Cartier. I was pointing out the architectural highlights along the way and telling her that she was in for a treat when we got to the old port. She looked at me curiously, and with a teasing smile said “You act like it was you who built all of this!” I admit that, just for a moment, it slipped my mind that I hadn’t. Reflecting on her good-natured jab, it struck me as odd that this city, whose shape and mood reflects the work and plans and aspirations of thousands of people, many of whose bones are now dust, seems to me to be particularly mine, seems to belong to me in a way so undeniable that somewhere in my dream world I think that am magnanimously sharing this city with all of you who do me the compliment of living here. I think this is what Jacques Lacan meant when he said that our desire is always the desire of the other. We claim others’ desires as our own. The world that others built to suit their particular vision is the world that we know we would have built if the job had fallen to us. We desire and dream as we do because others desire and dream as they do. This insight offers, I think, an important perspective on immigration and what it can mean to say that we live “together.”

On the last day of the Olympics I sat anxiously with my brother, his girlfriend Maru, and her two sons Jorge and Juan Carlos as we waited for the Canada-USA hockey game to begin. Maru, her two sons and her daughter (also named Maru) are from Mexico and have lived in Canada for more than five years. They have availed themselves of all the educational opportunities that have been offered. They have learned French and English well enough to work with the public, and they continue to plan for better things. Maru is taking training under Canada’s Action Plan to return to the job market after a layoff, she is practicing her graphic arts, and Carlos is planning to study philosophy at Concordia. During the game, Maru was often too nervous to watch, so she sat in front of her computer screen finding the latest tally of Canadian Olympic medals. More than anyone in the room, she was intensely excited that Canada was one gold medal away from setting an Olympic record. She reminded me at least twice that this summer she would be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship, and her children soon after. She and her children were staking their claim to Canada. Carlos said “In Mexico we like to beat the Americans in soccer, but they usually beat us. So now, we are Canadian and we will definitely beat them in hockey!” All afternoon as the game unfolded, the talk kept coming back to Canada, the medal count, how well we had done, and it became clear to me that Maru and Jorge and Carlos talked about Canada in a way that I never would. It was a pride unmixed with cynicism. Their anticipation of citizenship was the anticipation of a great gift, a transformative gift. As they spoke I could almost see my internal image of Canada changing, from a place where I live to a place where others dream of living. And when Crosby scored the goal that will take its place alongside those of Paul Henderson and Mario Lemieux I don’t know whose whoops of delight were the loudest. But we all settled back together into that happy exhaustion of relief that follows a brush with overtime terror. They had just undergone a truly “Canadian” initiation.

Perhaps it was the momentousness of the Olympics, the feeling that our experience of ourselves as Canadians was being transformed by the gaze of the world. Perhaps it is just the joy of a hockey victory, something never to be underestimated in Canada. But I had the sense that day of how much our own lives are entwined with others. It is as if my experience of being Canadian — dulled and washed out from overuse — is renewed and refreshed by listening to those for whom the word “Canada” is the promise of a future. And, apart from all the practical economic and social arguments for why immigration is a boon to a country that invites new citizens, this one resonates most powerfully for me: our country is more our own when its meanings are not just for us, but for others. It is more our own when, viewing it through the eyes of new citizens, we see unguessed dimensions that have always been there, but invisible to us. It is more our own when it is our gift to others, and their joyful acceptance of it their gift to us.