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August 17, 2010

Salt Spring: A Wasteland of Cultural Diversity

A couple of things on my mind lately. Well, more than a couple actually but here's a few I'll share here.

White. Whiteness. A sea of white. Homogeneous whiteness. Tapioca pudding.

When you live in Vancouver, you get so used to the multicultural nature of the Lower Mainland that you totally take it for granted. You get used to the fantastic ethnic food and seeing people wearing beautiful saris and colourful turbans, the occasional flowing black robes and hearing other languages, even ones that can be loud and annoying sometimes to be honest, that you forget that it's really an example of what Canada is all about. I always thought the Robson Street bus was a great example of that. You couldn't get on the Robson Street bus without a mix of tourists from all over the world and students from Mexico and Korea, Japan and China there to learn English. Diversity is what makes it so interesting and the food so great. That was not true of the Vancouver pre-Expo 86.

I think my feeling that something was missing here because of the lack of  diversity has been a re-ocurring theme for me since I moved here. It's not that I didn't know where I was moving to and what it was like but the lack of cultural diversity bothers me more than I ever thought it would. Thank God the island has it's spectacular natural beauty because, let's face it, to say Salt Spring is not diverse - culturally - would be just too big an understatement to even bother stating.

I was thinking about this and reading the too many responses on the CBC website from Canadians about the illegal immigrants on the Tamil ship that arrived on the weekend. If ever there was a sense of scarcity, you will find it in many of the comments. "Send them back! "Why do we even let them land?" "Our immigration office is a joke." On and on and on.  It's as if the people who say this think these people are arriving from Maui or something and they just got bored of where they were living and thought they'd cram into a small boat with 499 other people for 3 months to kick up the exictement metre in their lives a little.

I'm not defending illegal immigration but there's something about the mean-spirited nature of the comments that just saddens me.  It's as if we're on this luxury liner called Canada with so much space and money and we're peering down on a floating raft and screaming, "Drown suckers!"  Once again, I'm not defending their way of arriving, but from what I've read, more than a few Canadians would be happy to stand down at the shore with a rifle in hand and would happily kill them, rather than let the ship land.

And, that's something that I'm sure First Nations peoples, wished, in hindsight, they had of done when European explorers arrived on "their homeland."  But, we're all here. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Learn more about the Tamil people.

Follow up: Since writing this I was listening to a CBC radio show and I was enlightened to find out a lot more about this.  Unfortunately, these people are asylum seekers, not refugees. Refugees actually have to be declared that through a process, they don't just get to show up on the shores of a foreign country; one that is known to have a Charter of Human Rights (such as Canada's) that prevents us from doing anything but accepting them to begin the refugee determination process once they've arrived.

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