This past week, my twelve year journey to obtain Canadian citizenship ended with a quaint ceremony in which I, along with 80 or so other people, were given a piece of paper.
This piece of paper—printed on relatively good cardstock and adorned with signatures, emblems, and symbols of the Commonwealth—grants us privilege, global mobility, and access to opportunities that thousands risk their lives for every single day. Rights that friends, family members, and countless others I don’t know can only ever dream about, and perhaps through some bureaucratic miracle may also be able to obtain.
I didn’t have to climb any razor sharp fences to get this piece of paper. Nor did I have to gamble my life away on a shoddy boat to cross into rough seas, only to be shot at, drown, or barely make it into a strange land as a refugee. I never had to camp out on an arbitrary border site, hoping to stash away in a delivery truck, only to be caught and sent back, most likely to try again. I didn’t have to hide in a suitcase either. My attempt at migration, though desperate, was hardly as harrowing.
I’m fortunate to have had the privilege/advantage of a higher education, the full support of my beautiful family, and answers from the universe to my humble prayers. I was blessed with the headstart of language, access, and headstrongness. My razor sharp fence was having to find a job to sponsor me to stay in the country. My shoddy boat was having to make sure I filled out endless forms and collect identity documents for years on end, making sure never to lose a single one. My delivery truck was having to be physically present in Canada while government officials calculated and debated over just how many days it would take for me as a “permanent resident” to be assimilated enough to be granted the full rights of a citizen (the passing of Bill C-24 has upgraded the amount from 1,095 to 1,460). Hardly traumatic…but a struggle nonetheless.
In the end, migration is migration…the journey is nuanced, complex, and seldom easy. If we make it, no matter how great our lives are on “the other side”, there’s always a lingering thirst for where we come from—a romanticized nostalgia for places that couldn’t/can’t grant us the stability, freedoms, and opportunities to build the dignified lives we strive for. Loved ones are left behind. Birthdays, weddings, graduations and funerals are missed. Sacrifices are made—some greater and more emotional than others. Then there’s the matter of being from a country (Sudan) that was once itself a colonial subject of the Commonwealth, and the guilt of settling on land with its own troubled history of occupation…but that’s a whole other post…
It wasn’t in my lifetime, or my parents’ or their parents’ but I do believe that once upon a time, long ago, we were all free to wander. These days, some bodies are controlled by endless red tape and consular visits, while others are granted the birthright to roam more freely. Migration itself is nothing new, but the number of deaths at the ghost-lines of border protection/imperialism will be a defining issue of our era. Thousands are risking certain death and thousands more are perishing every day, seeking peace and a simple chance at life, either for themselves or for their children.
This decorated piece of paper I was given at that ceremony—it gives me those things, and I hope to never take it for granted. I know it was worth the wait, and I’m eternally grateful for it and what it promises to bring. I hope to use it well, and to fulfill the rights and responsibilities that come with it. I hope to be an example to those actively seeking access to this piece of paper or one like it: with a whole lot of patience and some prayers, it can be done.
It’s a blessing to be born and/or raised in a place where peace and order are taken for granted. It’s a responsibility to find legal ways to share that blessing with those less fortunate. It’s a right to seek help from those who bare that responsibility.
Thank you Kanata for taking this gal in, I hope to do you proud.
Below are a few sweet, sweet tunes that are in some way or another related to the issue of migration, and that helped me navigate its complex proverbial waters: let art lead the way! I hope to add more songs soon, and feel free to send me your own. To all those embarking on a similar journey, seeking out your own piece of paper, Godspeed, and may the bureaucrats be always in your favor!