Welcoming Immigrants

A second group of Syrian refugees arrived in Toronto on late Thursday night. They were sponsored by Canada’s Armenian community. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the airport greeting everyone. It was extremely touching. All very given their Social Insurance Number card as well as their Health Insurance Card.

When we arrived in Toronto as immigrants, nobody gave us SIN and Health Insurance cards. We had to go through the entire (convoluted and painful, especially for an immigrant) process of getting them on our own. And that was a very good, helpful thing.

People who want to live in Canada need to know how to engage with the country’s complex bureaucratic system. This is not a fun process but the experience of standing in five different lines that will finally take you to the Health Insurance card is important on both a symbolic and a practical level and helps you feel like all other Canadians.

There are rites of passage for every immigrant where they integrate themselves into the new society in a way that absolutely does have to be somewhat uncomfortable. Finding a place of your own, figuring out what a “security deposit” is, getting registered with the electrical company and the phone company – I still get a headache when I remember how I navigated this process (and twice within just 3 months, too) as a newcomer to Canada. (I also had to get the blasted SIN and HIC twice because my first ones were stolen in the first year of immigration.)

But these were all invaluable experiences. I’m not resentful about them but grateful. Canadians treated me, right from the start, as one of their own and not as a rare zoo animal or a circus freak who has to be coddled for exactly as long as s/he can provide touching photo ops and then cast aside for the benefit of a fresher one-day wonder. 

I just hope that these things were more thought out and immigrants were not subdivided into the categories of “those we want to integrate” and “those we don’t want to integrate” from the start.

12 thoughts on “Welcoming Immigrants”

  1. This is absolutely true!

    The double standards we are experiencing are really frustrating. People who want to work and pay taxes are denied the right simply because they don’t profess the ‘right’ religion, while those who hate working and don’t want to be integrated into the new society are granted all the rights, which they don’t really need.

    100 hundred years ago, Ukrainian newcomers just settled down in the prairies and… created Canadian agriculture. Canada didn’t care about them, but they cared about Canada. Nowadays, the ‘refugees’ (I insist on the quotes) are granted all the rights and privileges, including houses with all modern conveniences, but does it make them love Canada? Do they care about this country? Are they coming here to become Canadians?

    Those are rhetoric questions, the answer is obvious.


    1. The situation appears to be worse in Europe and I am concerned that America will follow. We are presently focused on Islamic terrorism, but is that the greatest problem?

      As noted in this article I posted today about the current situation in the European Union, Islamisation — with rape epidemics, Sharia Law police, Islamist indoctrination provided by a Turkish entity in German schools and the like — is proceeding apace there. The EU leadership seems not to be the least concerned.

      Although terrorist attacks have captured the public attention (“if it bleeds it leads”), what about voluntary cultural suicide through which Sharia law slowly displaces American law and Islamist culture (anti-feminism and anti-liberty in general) slowly displaces American culture?


      1. The question of where are the feminists is one that I’d love to see answered. This is what younger people call epic fail.

        The videos at your link are, indeed, very disquieting.


  2. Two questions:
    1)How accurate is Wikipedia on the subject of Ukrainians in Canada?
    2) Since you immigrated twice, how much bureaucracy was involved with being an immigrant in Canada v. the US for you? I know that someone who can’t deal with bureaucracy is ill-suited to immigrate anywhere, but I’ve never thought of government bureaucracy as a bonding experience. I notice Americans bond over complaining about bureaucracy, but immigration related bureaucracy is a whole other level compared to say, the DMV, which is downright pleasant.


    1. Both Canada and US were suspicious of and severe towards me. It seems like things are easier for immigrants to both countries if they are willing to position themselves as members of an ethnic group. For instance, my parents emigrated to Canada enormously faster and easier than I did because they emigrated as part of a Jewish program. I, on the other hand, did not make ethnicity part of my immigration process, and as a result it took much longer and the requirements were much harsher.

      I have a feeling that immigration authorities feel more comfortable with people they can classify ethnically.

      Also, the experience of crossing the border with papers that say you are coming to work is more unpleasant. The border guards get downright nasty, although the likelihood that a job of teaching Spanish literature will take anything away from a border guard is nil. One border guard tore a visa out of my passport and literally threw it at me. I then had to explain to the next border guard why the visa had been torn out and swear to heaven and hell that I wasn’t trying to deface the US-issued paperwork.

      The interviews that you have when emigrating to both countries are also very different. Canadian immigration officers, once again, try to place you in a group and tend to get pouty if you don’t help them do that. The US immigration officers don’t do that. They concentrate very heavily on mental health. Maybe it was just my personal experience but I swear I wasn’t acting erratically and the constant, “How are you feeling? Are you sad? Do you often feel sad? Do you feel angry about anything?” from the immigration officer felt weird. I wish the mental health of border guards were checked as thoroughly because many of them seem unstable.


      1. I am wondering – could your bad experiences simply be a result of prejudice that the immigration authorities and state bureaucrats of the US and Canada have against people from certain countries? My experiences ranged from only slightly unpleasant to overwhelmingly positive and even hilarious… there has to be some rational explanation for that…

        And, even though it is probably not appropriate to make far-reaching conclusions from too limited dataset (and I am not talking only about you here, I’ve observed similar phenomena a lot) – could there be something similar to “dedovschina”* at play? With those who suffered from the authorities being more upset about the free ride the refugees are supposedly getting than those who did not suffer? There is a variety of the same phenomenon when refugees, who had to look hard for work in the US, and perhaps had to do work beneath their education for a while, dislike programmers and scientists on work visas…
        Do not get me wrong, you are making important observations and valuable arguments… Yes, refugees are indeed being used for the benefit of Trudeau and other politicians. But, technically, some socialization arguments could be made about “dedovschina” as well – it also socialized young men for the harsh realities of life, in and out of the army… And it would be unfair for those who experienced it if it ever stopped… Or if someone got lucky and did not experience it in some random “good” unit.

        how do you translate it? extreme hazing of new recruits by older soldiers, that then repeated itself once the new soldiers became older… is there a single expression in English?


        1. I entered the US from Canada at least 50 times and not once with the Ukrainian passport. The word Ukraine was never mentioned. So no, I don’t think it’s about that. I think the border guards were reacting first to the word “Yale” and then to the word “work.”

          Curiously, I never entered the US as a tourist from Canada. I always specifically enter as an immigrant. I’m guessing it would be a different experience if I were to come in as a tourist.

          It did get better since the green card, though, that’s for sure.

          I don’t in the least claim to have suffered from the immigration authorities. I’m very respectful and understanding of the process. And as I said, I’m grateful for being treated like an equal from the start. There isn’t anything all that horrifying about getting a SIN on your own. Everybody does it and yes, it’s a hassle but it isn’t like anybody goes to a psychiatrist to get treated after the experience. 🙂

          Getting your own paperwork and making your own phone calls is not mistreatment. It’s being treated as an equal.


  3. —Getting your own paperwork and making your own phone calls is not mistreatment. It’s being treated as an equal.

    Well, if you’d write only all those socialization arguments, I’d agree with you, except for some points in the next paragraph. But since you brought your experiences up for comparison, you opened yourself up for some, perhaps unpleasant, analysis.
    Unlike immigrants who have to demonstrate some proficiency in English or French to pass an interview, refugees cannot make those calls all by themselves in the beginning. So it all boils down to the question of if Canada should admit any refugees. The moment we admit that they are refugees and not “refugees”, it becomes natural that different rules apply, and there is no unfairness in different rules.
    But Trudeau should not be so into this PR campaign anyway.


    1. Crowds of people get SIN and health insurance cards without speaking the language. Hell, my mother got both a driver’s licence and the citizenship without speaking any English or French.

      But that’s not even the point. Placing interpreters at the SIN centers is something I would greatly support. Especially since interpreters need work. But this is not what happened here. This was carting off the entire bureaucracy to the airport which is in no way explained by any practical concern. This was all about putting on a show.


      1. —I entered the US from Canada at least 50 times and not once with the Ukrainian passport.

        There is a line in any passport called “place of birth”. Since we got our Canadian passports, my wife got asked by US border guards more than once (admittedly – politely) about her country of birth being Russia. It did suffice, thought, to just tell the officer that her family moved to Estonia when she was one year old and her other/previous citizenship is Estonian. Fortunately the US border officers do not know too much about the political situation and about many Russians in Estonia being hardcore “vatniki”. 🙂 Estonian passports also have the place of birth, but it did not occur to any officers that “Venemaa” is Russia. 🙂


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