That Ontario teenager was myself. I don’t have a photo like what you see in some recent newspapers: Smiling Canadians posing in photos with Syrian refugees as they arrive at our major city airports. My experience is not about helping refugees.
Humdrum Insider View: Helping Others Immigrate
Let me give you our family’s insider view. It’s about my peripheral involvement in the 1970’s, to help my father sponsor different relatives from mainland China. The method used by vast majority of immigrants in Canada who applied through Canadian government –using forms and waiting. And waiting. For several years.
Bored of Adult-Like Responsibilities
I can’t quite remember the first time of my familial duty. I think I was 16 yrs. old. I wanted to hide behind a library novel and escape from adult-like responsibilities. My teen ennui and resignation stemmed of being bored as the first-born, asked to do certain adult-like things first: Translate for my mother at the store or over the phone with the doctor’s office, when a sibling was sick and my father was busy at work.
Next time, I pitched in a similar way, I was 19 yrs. old. I could clatter half-competently on the application form on our electric Smith-Corona typewriter –minus typo-errors every 30-40 words.
Family Sponsorship Application Route: Waiting Several Years
My father calmly asked me to type up the federal Canadian government immigration form. He thought it would look more business-like. So I dutifully typed in Cousin G’s personal details as my father dictated to me.
Cousin G, who none of us knew at all, except from a black and white photo, was single at the time and in his twenties. From a rural area in southern China.
The Canadian government didn’t give the green light for Cousin G to immigrate, until a few years later. In the late 1970’s, it took time for wannabe immigrant applicants from mainland China, to be cleared for Canadian immigration. China was still trying to fight off the iron-fist Communist rule of Mao.
Ceramic Vase Gift in Fish Net Shopping Bag
Finally we met Cousin G. at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. He got off the plane and presented my parents, a gift with a nod to my mother, because she was his aunt. It was a large, foot-long Chinese ceramic vase as a gift, slung in a plastic fishnet bag during his plane flight, as if it was food groceries. He also packed along some Chinese pottery plates inside his luggage which my mother had pre-suggested by letter. She in turn, gave us, each of her 6 children, a Chinese ceramic art plate or planter.
Shortly thereafter, he had to be quarantined in the hospital, for hepatitis. But he was fine after 3 weeks.
Canadian Integration, Not Immigration is a Long, Hard Road
Fast forward 30 years: He still continues to work in the kitchens of Chinese restaurants in Metro Toronto. His wife works in janitorial services at one of the government buildings. They have moved into single detached house in North York. It’s been a long, long journey like any non-English speaking immigrant knows –finding work, saving money, coping with cultural and linguisitic differences.
Several years later after he settled in his restaurant job and his own rental apartment, my father helped him sponsor his wife whom he married after she immigrated. We were all intrigued: she wore a rented white wedding dress –aspirational to be modern and Western. They later had 2 children who 2 decades later, both graduated from Canadian universities. Yes, both are working full-time in Canada.
Firing up a Gas BBQ- Sign of Canadian Modern, Good Times
But we still have memory when Cousin G invited us, his English-speaking cousins with crummy Chinese fluency, over for dinner. He wanted to show off their first ever BBQ grill –a sign finally having made it in Canadian society. He and his wife welcomed us proudly into their semi-detached house they acquired with a hard-earned down payment and a mortgage.
We were just incredulous: we didn’t even have BBQ –even after our parents landed in Canada a quarter century earlier. It never occurred to us to want a BBQ grill. Our parents just didn’t want to deal with BBQ flames. Nevertheless, we had a delicious meal of hamburgers fused with home-cooked Chinese dishes –very Canadian.
There are several million of these immigrant stories –legitimate immigrants and those who help them, that never make it to the newspapers nor TV.
http://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2015/09/12/new-canadians-cherish-their-right-to-vote-study-finds.html Those who obtain their citizenship may appreciate rights that naturalized Canadians have taken for granted.
Ontario. Multicultural Historical Society. Educational handout with excerpts of Canadian federal law from early 1900’s onward restricted, then slowly allowed more Chinese immigrants.