& occasionally about other things, too...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Undesirables - 1

Early 20th century Canadian Punjabi
language newspaper
reporting on the incarceration
of Indian Immigrants 

Late last year, I filled out the forms for becoming a Canadian citizen. I did that with some degree of trepidation because I'd have to swear allegiance to “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada.”

This is oath:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen

I'm more than happy observing Canadian laws and carrying out my duties as a Canadian citizen.

I’m not a nationalist, or a patriot. In a global world these are virtues of the intellectually myopic, and yet I find the oath disturbing because in swearing allegiance to the Queen, I’d be negating my history.

I’m not comfortable jettisoning the ideas that the Indian freedom movement gave to the world. Wouldn't acquiescing to be the Queen’s citizen tantamount to treason against the ideals of the Mahatma?

Frankly, I’ve not been able to find any satisfactory excuse that would absolve the intense feelings of guilt that I’m sure will consume me when I actually take the oath of citizenship.

Am I being hypocritical? I wouldn't want to admit that, but it'd be a fair conclusion to reach.

I’m certain that I’ll become a citizen of Canada. It’s been a decade since I wanted to be so. We applied to immigrate in 2002. And it’s four years since I’ve been a landed immigrant.

Immigration is a life-changing process, for sure and I’ve been fortunate that I found a job that has given me an avenue to utilise my experience and talent; many others who’re more qualified and with more experience have languished here.

I've also been fortunate that my community has rescued me from perennial penury that is the fate of many immigrants forced into minimum wage survival jobs.

The dichotomy in Canada between the people and the state is stark – on the one hand, Canadians are warm, friendly, and caring to all newcomers. On the other hand, the impersonal establishment (all political hues included) unknowingly but actively creates barriers.

Canada’s recent decision to throw away over 300,000 applications for immigration (mostly from India, China and non-white parts of the world), and altering the immigration policies to encourage immigrants more adept in English language, are some stark examples of the unchanging ways of the state.

As I read Ali Kazimi’s beautifully illustrated book on the Komagata Maru “incident” I couldn’t help but wonder that the policies being discussed in present day are in many ways similar to the policies that were in place a hundred years ago, when Canada tried to handle the “Hindu invasion”.

Continued in the next blog post

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