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Retaliations fromThe 999 SIN Card Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by , Canada Aug 28, 2007
Culture , Human Rights   Interviews
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February 26 2006, 13h30, Québec City

É: Hello Mini-Mini.

M: Hello Manue.

É: I was going to ask you some questions for my research methods course that I take at University.

M: Okay.

É: So if you agree we are going to have a really laid-back interview, of a duration of about 20- 30 minutes.

M: No problem.

É: No problem, then I was wanting to see if we could start by talking a little bit about your arrival here in Canada.

M: Hum...

É: From Chad. More precisely I would like to know, when you arrived after winning the creative writing contest, when you found out you would stay here.

M: Yeah

É: When you realized Beral would go to jail, I would like you to tell me what were the procedures to follow with the government, the immigration, and how you felt about it all.

M: Okay. I would say it wasn't totally easy because at first I was seen as a visitor and then my status changed so I had to go through procedures with the immigration to get accepted as a refugee to then go on with the procedures to become a permanent resident later. The steps take a lot of time, truly tiring and it often made me think if it was right to have won this contest that brought me here in the first place to endure all this. But at the same time I was relaxed because I was thinking it was formalities, things that may be normal even though they are tiring, and we have to deal with it, so I could hold on with regards to the obstacles to overcome. It demanded a lot of patience, a lot of paper work, at times Immigration Québec was confused with Immigration Canada, we were wondering why we had to have a lawyer, also where the office was, because we were sometimes mistaken for other people and if we didn't have the help of the YMCA seriously it wasn't obvious. But every day we had services telling us what to do and people that were following our case, and they were helping us to go to the right address, to the right place, what's the closest subway station and how to get there, because otherwise at first it wasn't easy. Not easy at all.

É: But were you alone to do this process. When you say 'We', who do you refer to, the other participants in the contest, or...

M: No, the other ones in the contest, I wasn't with them and they had nothing to do with my arrival, because I was the only African of the team and I was the only one affected by my situation so I was the only one to stay. When I say 'we', it's because we were living in a house at the YMCA with the other refugees that had to do the same thing to get accepted and explain their situation. But me I was finding myself very lonely here, and I sometimes think like I was like an orphan, because nobody spoke my language in Montréal, like I met other Chadians but there was no family linkages. It wasn't obvious and it's also people that had other stuff to do. No, really the service that most helped us is the SARIM, it's a service that works to the benefit of immigrants, to the benefit of those who arrive and don't know where to go, etc. And that's the service that helped us dealing with immigration.

But as I said at first, it's a lot of paper work, lot of time, and every day we are stressed and confused, and we are scared and we don't know what's gonna happen. And we also have our heads down because at first I came here with my head up with the contest, and I won the third prize but then suddenly I found myself back to the level where I had to negotiate everything like a poor refugee who is scared but he needs to try hard to be understood. I admit it was a shock for me and regarding my personality and the pride I had attained because I was doing rewarding things in my country and then I found myself in a situation where I was being managed like a poor refugee and it wasn't always pleasant a situation to endure. But the situation was such that we were still being treated like human beings and it wasn't like the refugees of Goma in Congo or the refugees of Darfur in Chad but it was still a situation where you are disturbed. Once you introduce yourself to the city, you don't feel like saying you're a refugee, you don't feel like saying that you still don't have a SIN. When you want to work, the first thing they ask you for is your SIN, and if it starts with a 9 then they know that you're a refugee because for the residents and the citizens of the province of Québec it always starts with a 2 and when it doesn’t start with a 2 we can block you or make your life harder because we know you're not a resident and you're in a situation where you have to negotiate so, well, you lose what you have. So, it was pretty hard morally, after all.

É: Okay, so you told me that you were working with Immigration Canada in Montréal. So do you think that, besides the organization that you just mentioned, do you think that the Canadian government is doing a good job to facilitate the integration of new comers to Canada?

M: Well actually, at first, I was a refugee so I benefited from these services, the SARIM, I don't know if it's with Québec or Canada, but at first I didn't really differentiate between the two. But at first with regards to the difficulties you have to go through, in spite of all the paper work, I say to myself that in general the process is very smooth, they treat you like human beings, the procedures are long, but it's necessary and they treat you more or less positively. It's at the level of practical life that you are singled out as a refugee and you don't have the same respect that a resident or someone else could have. But with regards to the immigration, the service is thus: even if it's long, tiring, and you are scared, because when you are refugee, there are three steps, you first have to get accepted as a refugee, and then become a permanent resident, and then you can also make the demand to become a citizen, but that's another level of procedures. So, each time you fill out this paperwork, you are scared to miss something in the information, and there is certain information you don't have anymore, you forgot, so you have to address your parents in our country to get it, and you know that when it's taking a long time for you then the immigration has a lot of patrons, and there are a lot of people.

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Je suis étudiante en économie du développement au Canada, présentement volontaire en prise en charge socioéconomique des personnes vivant avec le VIH SIDA au Burkina Faso. Je m'intéresse particulièment aux mouvements sociaux et aux questions d'équité et d'oppression.
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