Friday 2 October 2015

In the past few months, we have heard so much about refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. It's election season here in Canada, and the rhetoric is out in full swing. We hear about immigrants not assimilating into 'our' culture, issues with niqabs, about #PeopleLikeNenshi and #BarbaricCulturalPractices. Racism, islamophobia, homophobia, immigrant hate, divisive politics - all par for the course.

Then we have a picture of a little boy washed up on a beach. Things change for a few days, as we rediscover our compassion, but then they're back to the usual. Fear, loathing and hate.

Stop the world. I want to get off.

I am an immigrant to Canada. It is probably a little more obvious in my case, as I am brown. I know a lot of people here in Edmonton, and I daresay, I am well liked. But in the world out there I am an immigrant, a face among millions that move from the country of their birth for reasons ranging from love (in my case) to fear, to escape, to seek a better life.

I am an immigrant. So –

Do you hate me? Is it because I am brown?

Do you hate that I took a job that should have belonged to a 'Canadian'?

Would you deport me if I failed to pay my library fine, especially if I become a second-class Canadian citizen? (see Bill C-24) Would you deport my daughter, because she was born in England, despite the fact that she was a Canadian citizen first?

Why are you surprised when I speak fluent English, while also being able to converse with my mother in my native language?

Are you scared of me? Am I scary? Am I the 'other'? Do I look like a 'terrorist' if I protest, say, for the environment, or gay rights or equal pay for women?

Do you hate that I write about Indian food?

Should I go back to where I came from?

Are you scared that I won't assimilate into 'Canadian' culture? What is 'Canadian' culture?

Does your family have a 'secret' recipe that came from your immigrant grandmother?

Do you absolutely dislike that I am going to take on a hallowed, traditional dish like stuffing and add my own little twist to it? Am I thumbing my nose at 'old stock' Canadians?

The absolute worst is when people look at me and say, but you're not the kind of immigrant we're talking about. I look at them with pity as I think, no, I am exactly the kind of immigrant you're thinking about. I should be the person you think of when you think of immigrants.

Perhaps all this is a bit too political for just a thanksgiving stuffing recipe. But I am angry. I am angry, and hurt and sad and upset. I am angry that this is the world I am handing over to my daughter.

I am like you, but I am not really, am I? What would it take for me to be seen as 'me' and not the 'other'?

Happy Thanksgiving from my immigrant kitchen!


  1. Oh, I really wanted the recipe for your 'immigrant stuffing' as it sounds well. I am not Canadian, but a USA citizen from South-America and live in SA too.
    It's funny, but my family and me never felt any kind of racist, bigotry or prejudice in the most generous and wonderful country in the world called the 'United States,' my country too.
    Thanks for the recipe, I love it.

  2. MIchelle, this is as powerful a piece of writing as I've seen on this subject. I am so appalled by the ignorance and intolerance aimed at immigrants, yet I rarely speak up. I need to change that. I'm going to start by sharing your post. Thank you for this.

    And, I don't know who 'owns' turkey stuffing (certainly not me, and no one objects to a first generation Canadian of Belgian descent playing around with the recipe), but it was the first thing that caught my eye and the curiosity drew me in.

  3. I'm married to the son of an immigrant. From very freshly post-war Germany. Our "enemy." I don't know what's happened to our country, but we're only better for those who have chosen to make it home.

  4. Michelle, you are so spot on. My skin may be white, but I am a first generation Canadian - the child of immigrants (also post war refugees from Germany) and I totally get what you are saying. My parents lived it, and through them I lived it too. Unless you are First Nations, every single other person in Canada is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants. We are what makes this country what it is. What right do we have to deny others the very thing that we did by coming to this country?

  5. Michelle, I'm sorry you have to deal with this - the comments, looks, sentiments. Good on you for speaking out. It's good to raise these issues , to make our country a better place for our children.

    Can wait to see you soon, friend!

  6. I love that you write about Indian Food and share it with everyone.
    I love that you are a friend in my life who is also a friend of a friend.
    I love that you have a voice and are not afraid to use it.
    I will be making this stuffing soon!
    Happy Thanksgiving my friend!

  7. Oh my, time is flying! Thanksgiving is almost here. This is a great idea :)

  8. Michelle, you should run for office. You are a remarkable person. Thanks for the post, I will circulate it.


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