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Immigrated but not integrated: When separatism leads to racism
Who is provoking discrimination?
Recent news on CBC lead me to write this article. Harjit Singh Sajjan, became the 1st Sikh to assume command of a Canadian army regiment. A major victory for the Canadian/Indian population and a proof that Canada is a country that truly embraces multiculturalism. On TV, the new commander was proudly showing off his uniform, along with a turban and beard. An unusual sight that made headlines. Harjit Singh Sajjan immigrated to Canada as a young boy and is proud to serve the Canadian forces. His family came here in search of wealth and happiness and things seem to have worked out well for them. The proud parents were interviewed - a great day for them. As a fellow immigrant, I felt happy for them until I noticed that they were both speaking in a foreign language that had to be translated into English. Not only were they dressed in their national garb, they were unable to speak to their fellow Canadians! I wondered, if they had ever bothered to apply for Canadian citizenship or if they had decided to remain eternal foreigners altogether. Immigrated but obviously not integrated! For CBC, this was a story of success, multiculturalism and mutual respect. For me, the fact that the parents, both long-term residents of Canada could not speak in a national language was an embarrassment that showed disrespect. It’s not that I disagree with a Sikh becoming an army commander. On the contrary. Good for him, I’m sure he deserved it. But I wonder if it is really necessary, that an ex-immigrant demands from his welcoming host country, to be exempt from the usual dress code. Doesn’t the army have a uniform, so that everybody is equal? Shouldn’t religion be left at home, along with ethnic background or sexual preference. Would a cowboy from Alberta be allowed to wear a cowboy hat or a gay male a pink shirt? I seriously doubt it. Or even more extreme, what would happen, if a Muslim woman took a commanding role and insisted that according to her law, she must wear a burqa. What is the point of immigration without integration? If it were the other way round, we would call it discrimination.
According to a recent article in the Maclean’s magazine, immigrants are also treated separately, when it comes to justice. Immigrants who commit serious crimes are supposed to be deported. According to the law, any non-citizen sentenced to more than two years cannot challenge his pending deportation at the Immigration and Refugee Board. This has lead to many foreign criminals appealing their sentences. As a result, some sentences have been reduced considerably to two years so that the removal orders could be appealed. Once again, foreigners are favoured and native citizens discriminated against.
Unfortunately racism has gotten a dangerous foothold all over the world. Holland and Germany have declared that multiculturalism doesn’t work. Native citizens feel like foreigners in their own country. Switzerland has banned minarets, France the burqua. Anti-Muslim sentiments are also growing stronger in Canada. People are starting to defend their own rights and traditions. Can we blame them?
Strange enough, according to a study published by a Montreal based Research Institute, no one is less supportive of immigration than immigrants themselves. While almost 60% of those born in Canada favour immigration, less than 55% of recent immigrants do the same. This may come as a surprise to most, but not to me. As a new immigrant I believe in integration. I came to Canada for the Canadian lifestyle. I defend the local culture and don’t want it to become a multicultural potpourri. I speak two official languages and I socialize mostly with Canadians. I’ve introduced my Canadian friends to some European traditions, while also embracing theirs. I intend to apply for citizenship next year and expect to be treated as an equal citizen. I totally agree with the Canadian government wanting to introduce a language ability test for citizenship applicants. To me this is an integral part of the process.
The latest in a long line of unnecessary arguments is a recent ban on Muslim women, requiring them to remove any face-covering garments, such as burkas at their Canadian citizenship ceremony. According to Immigration Minister Kenney, one of the requirements to become a Canadian involves reciting the citizenship oath. Since we can't check what's happening under a face covering veil, how can we prove that this important criteria has actually been met. In my opinion as a fellow woman and immigrant, if we don't stop this utter nonsense, Canada might soon have to adopt several classes of citizenship ceremonies, suiting the religious and personal needs of each individual applicant. Now, is this really what we call multi-culturalism? I would rather call this a cultural melting pot ready to explode.
I believe that separatism breeds hatred and that immigrants notwithstanding of their culture should adapt to their host country, not vice-versa. Then we could all live in harmony and racism wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.