As a requirement to join Canadian Confederation, the Province of British Columbia demanded the Canadian Federal Government construct a railway to connect their province with Eastern Canada (more specifically – Ontario eastward).
Not having enough manpower to do so, the Government of Canada and British Columbia struck a deal whereby Chinese laborers would be imported, paid slave wages, and made to do the hard, dangerous work that white Canadians were unwilling to do.
Interestingly, despite the second class treatment from Canada, Chinese immigrants poured into the country, taking a months long journey aboard crude (by today’s standards) seafaring vessels. Many, like my great-great-great grandfather, left behind their wives and children, their ancestral homeland. After arriving and being unjustly exploited, manipulated, defrauded, segregated, disenfranchised and separated from their families – many chose to stay.
Because they saw there was hope and opportunity in the land they were coming to. More so than the land they were coming from.
In the 1880’s through 1949, China was involved in predatory foreign interventions (including by some of the same foreign powers that crafted Canada) and a string of brutal, sectarian civil wars that left millions in the region dead.
Fast forward to December, 2015.
Another part of the world, Syria, is caught up in predatory foreign interventions (including by some of the same foreign powers that practically own Canada) as well as a brutal, sectarian civil war that has left millions in the region dead.
Unlike my Chinese ancestors, Syrian refugees choosing to come to Canada are receiving world class treatment:
All their expenses paid, free health care, free accommodation (including at the expense of Canadian soldiers), free food, free education, and fast tracked towards Canadian citizenship.
Despite this, displaced Syrian refugees are “reluctant” to come to Canada.
Could it be that Canada is not the land of hope and opportunity my ancestors saw it to be?
Could it be that, despite receiving phenomenal treatment from the Canadian government (at the expense of existing Canadian citizens) the offer to become Canadian is not particularly appealing ?
The whole situation reminds me of a skit from from the Simpsons:
Hilarious because both parts are true.
It is almost as if the Syrian refugees see a clear truth that Canadians are blind to: that there is no future in Canada. No hope – even compared to escaping from a bloodbath in their own country.
In the past, so many immigrants from all over the world would have jumped at the opportunity to come here (even if it meant carrying live dynamite up a mountain for $4 a day). In the case of my ancestors, the desire to become a second rate Canadian was so great that the government banned them.
Today, the Canadian government is practically begging foreigners from war torn nations to come here, treating them better than their own citizens, and they can barely convince them to make the all expenses paid trip.
Separatism is simple acknowledgement of a truth that is clear the world over. A truth that Matt Groening so succinctly portrayed in an adult cartoon, almost 20 years ago. A truth Syrian refugees are illustrating perfectly clear in their unwillingness to be imported here.
Canada has no future. Canada should not exist as it does today.
To see a fascinating illustration of Canadian exploitation of Chinese immigrants to build this country, please watch this animated series here (this episode has an interesting monologue about many other forms of institutionalized bigotry in Canadian history).