Toronto The federal government in Canada recently passed legislation clearing up the fact that among other things children born in Canada or to Canadians outside of Canada are still Canada which is likely to confer citizenship on more than 300,000 folks who don’t realize they are really Canadians. There is a publicity campaign underway, including a spot on YouTube, that brings some humor the search and has someone suddenly waking up and finding out that they are Canadian. They are wrapped in maple leaf blankets and find a couple of moose, a hockey player, and a Royal Mountie standing looming over their bedroom.
This is a different approach to immigration than one I see so often. The difference is refreshing.
The ACORN Canada office in Toronto reflects the same kind of diversity that I find throughout this wildly cosmopolitan city. We have staff with roots in India, Tajikistan, Argentina, Tanzania, and, hey, even the US. Almost no one on staff is actually from Toronto with even the Canadians from here and there.
It breeds a different perspective on both how integrated people are with people around the world, but also the fact that people around the world are as important perhaps as Canadians. That’s not a south of the border worldview, eh?
I found myself trudging on train and bus the short haul to one of the neighborhoods through a cold, sloppy rain yesterday afternoon with one of the organizers for an opportunity to visit one of the local group leaders. Elise Aymer had not only listened to our organizing rhetoric and ideology about membership participation and direction, but had also absorbed the insight from her own experience in project management for tech companies that the organizers simply couldn’t do “it all” even if they wanted to, and needed the members to not only pull their load, but in fact to deeply help in recruiting other members with special strengths, volunteers, interns, and any and all available labor to make the organization able to build the capacity to realize its objectives. From that insight she was carving out her contribution from her home with her growing family. This meeting that started as simply another chance to see a member turned out to be a gift and inspiration. In less than an hour it felt like I was walking out on the puddles as if strolling on water with the feeling that anything might just be possible and being reminded even after 40 years of organizing why I continue to believe, sometimes in spite of the evidence, that our eventual victories are inevitable, if we can only marshal all of the latent capacity of our people and their unimaginable collective strengths.
Maybe we’re all Canadians now?
Watch the Utube video here:
Puerto Playa After more goodbyes and last minute meetings about plans and problems, we were off in a van offered by the general secretary of an island-wide, 50,000 member transport workers union that we were fortunate to meet our last night in Santiago thanks to one of the organizer’s ingenuity (props to Steffan Lajoie!). This trip was smooth and quick sailing on the main highway rather than the picturesque mountain roads when we first journeyed to Santiago. We had hoped to see the beaches on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic near Puerto Playa before heading off to the still chilly spring in Canada.
We were not disappointed. The driver drove us through a gated, vacation community near the coast to a still public beach called Treasure Cove by the hopeful developers that was popular with Dominicans. We were the only haoli’s.
The cove was beautiful. The overcast sky made the water seem cooler than it really was for the first minutes, but once past a then band of rocks, probably planted for a meter or so as a beach protection, the sand was smooth under foot, the waves mild and rolling, and the water a blessing as a few of us took a swim.
Life is not a beach though, and the reminders were quick in coming in this idyllic setting. The restaurant was run by a white foreigner, and he tried to charge for the banos, defeating the claim to easy living on the coast. The souvenir shop was run by a Haitian. The dishwasher in the restaurant was a Haitian woman. Immigrants were unmistakably on the top and the bottom here.
The issue of migrant workers from Haiti into the DR is huge here. We met at some length with John Service of the Catholic Relief Service about ways to partner to deal with workers’ rights issues for such workers when we met him in Santo Domingo on Friday. We were all relieved to hear Katia Soriano report on the relative harmony in the neighborhoods between lower income Dominicans and Haitians living side by side.
Nonetheless it was not a surprise to me as I took my last walk around the beach to see that there was a recycler working along the edges of the crowd, picking up plastic, bottles, and whatever might be sold. Of course, it was also a Haitian.