The Passing Scene: In Search of a (Better) Life

The boy was barely 10 years old. Wakened from his sleep.
Told he was ‘going away’. Bundled onto a train.
Then another. Jammed in with other kids of all ages.
Hour after hour. Switch to another train. Endless.
Arriving … somewhere. Stood on a stage with countless
other kids. Grown-up Strangers looking at them. Staring.
Pointing. Rejecting. A chosen kid leaves. Another. Then,
his turn. Taken to a family with a boy his age. Sharing
his bed. A chamber pot. It was the longest night of his life.
in a life full of endless nights. 14 hours since he woke
and heard those words ………..

Graham Woods
Graham Woods

Beside me as I write this is a copy of the Globe and Mail from June 19, 2018 showing a half page photograph of a Honduran immigrant boy surrounded by US Border Patrol agents near Mission, Texas, their holstered revolvers dominating the picture as they prepare to take the boy, his expression blank, away from his parents and into custody. He looks to be about 8 years old. Remember these lyrics? ‘America, America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to sea to sea.’ Tell that to this nameless boy whose family had trekked hundreds of miles through Mexico in search of a life. A better life. America. I saved the photograph, wondering how that boy is doing, now separated from his parents, unable to speak English, flown to another part of the USA and, yes, imprisoned with hundreds of other young refugees. In some ways, I can identify with him. I was that kid on the train.

I was growing up in England, a 1940s war-time ten-year-old (not to be confused with a 10 year old of today), who, as with thousands of others, spent night after night in a cold, damp air-raid shelter – at one point for 57 nights in a row – during the Blitz then, later, defying the V1 flying bombs. But it was the V2 rockets that was the game-changer, descending with absolutely no warning from 60 miles in space at 1,801 mph. Chillingly frightening. Never knowing. When? What I do recall so vividly all these years later, is being wakened and told I was going away, winding up in a small village in South Wales – an evacuee living with strangers whose Welsh accent I didn’t understand – nor they mine.

But, compared with the Honduran boy, my experience was nothing. The cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees by Donald Trump is beyond immoral. It’s obscene. For so many years the USA was the envy of much of the world. As a child leading up to D-Day, I recall so clearly the Yanks arriving in our neighbourhood with their snazzy uniforms, informality and generosity. American gum? Oh so civilized. Candy? Their fabulous, huge cars? Convertibles, for goodness sake!! Did I mention Lucky Strike? Yes, at 10 years old, sneaking not just a fag, but an American fag given with a wink! But, looking back, within that 14 hour day of train rides, my war was over as I adjusted to a new, overwhelming life, quickly creating an out-of-nowhere, coping personality change. I can only imagine how that Honduran boy is doing.

For years, the world has been fooled by the United States, seeing it through its movies, television, advertising; the glamour of New York or Los Angeles, its sports teams, Hollywood, the Oscars … until Trump won the last presidential election (through an antiquated electoral system) ripping the festering scab off a nation of violent racists with, at the time of writing this, 5,591 gun deaths, 20,808 suicides and 16,238 homicides so far this year – and an ignorant, bigoted fool as head of state. This is the country that desperate Honduran boy and his family was fleeing to. Ahhh, Canada. (Chillingly, as I was writing this paragraph, five more people were shot to death in the newsroom of The Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland)

Some trivia: In 1885 a 16 year old German boy sailed the Atlantic to New York City – and the promised land – where he was welcomed with open arms. His name was Friedrich Trump. If only he’d stayed home.

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Ralph Torrie

Home – by Warsan Shire no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well your neighbors running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay. no one leaves home unless home chases you fire under feet hot blood in your belly it’s not something you ever thought of doing until the blade burnt threats into your neck and even then you carried the anthem under your breath only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets sobbing as each mouthful of paper made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back. you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land no one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled means something more than journey. no one crawls… Read more »

Tim

Presumably she’s describing the motivation and plight of refugees but before everyone starts tearing up (as in crying) and writing letters to our witless boy prime minister to let more “refugees” into Canada, consider the line in which she mentions “tearing up your passports in airport toilets”. What kind of genuine refugee does something like that? One of the main problems is that too often the first ploy of illegal immigrants seeking a better life — and who in the world isn’t — is to claim they’re refugees and they destroy their passports so they are free to fabricate any story they like. Genuine refugees would ask for asylum at the first safe country they entered but, as an example, how many people from Syria have requested asylum in Turkey? Most head for Germany, England or Sweden. Just ask them. France isn’t even good enough. We’ve all heard of the large, recently dismantled encampment of illegal immigrants in Calais, known as “The Jungle” where everyone was trying to enter England by hopping trucks and adult men with five o’clock shadow regularly tried to pass themselves off as “child refugees”. This sentimental, trite poetaster has given the game away with that… Read more »

Wally Keeler

Tim, righteously smeared, “This sentimental, trite poetaster…”

Definition: Poetaster is a derogatory term applied to bad or inferior poets.

Ralph Torrie posted a poem, entitled “HOME” that was written by Warsan Shire. In April 2013, Shire was presented with Brunel University’s African Poetry Prize, an award earmarked for poets who have yet to publish a full-length poetry collection. She was chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries. In October 2013, Shire was selected from a shortlist of six as the first Young Poet Laureate for London. The honour is part of the London Legacy Development Corporation’s Spoke programme, which focuses on promoting arts and culture in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the surrounding area. In 2014, Shire was also chosen as poet-in-residence of Queensland, Australia, liaising with the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts over a six-week period. In June 2018 Shire was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in its “40 Under 40” initiative.

Her poem was neither sentimental nor trite.

Tim

Her poem is excessively sentimental and trite and I know the definition of poetaster which is why I used the word. I repeat, she is making a very lucrative career for herself by pulling the heart strings of the politically correct and mendacious, who are desperate to present themselves as more caring than everybody else. And let me add that this is a trend that is all too prevalent in the world of literature and art today, and one that should worry everyone but especially anyone with talent.

Dubious

…one that should worry everyone but especially anyone with talent

Wally revels in it.

Wally Keeler

Dubious said unconvincingly.

Wally Keeler

” this is a trend that is all too prevalent in the world of literature and art today, and one that should worry everyone but especially anyone with talent.” That’s right, and that is why have spent my life putting my freedom on the line for free speech. It is much better to be poetically correct than it is to be politically correct. I already dealt with the Security Service of this Mickey Mouse country, wiretapping my phone, intercepting and withholding my mail, causing employers to dismiss, causing my eviction, tracing my identity via my sin, etc etc. I am not part of that trend you point towards — the simple minded pursuit of political correctness and the simple-minded virtue signalling of denouncing political coirrectness. No doubt those of the political correctness crowd will present this poem to support their POLITICAL agenda, which is what Ralph Torrie did. And there will be those who denounce it for POLITICAL purposes, like you. The poem is neither “excessively sentimental and trite.” It’s passionate and with many powerful images and phrases that can lacerate. “Home is the mouth of a shark” “even then you carried the anthem under your breath” “prison is safer… Read more »

Tim

For a free speech crusador, you aren’t very tolerant of other people’s opinions. In fact, you’re not tolerant at all. I don’t care what you think about this poem or any other but you seem to be extremely concerned with my views and to such an extent that you’re not only trying to persuade me that I’m wrong but you’re trying to convince everybody else that I’m an imbecile. Give it your best. If the poem in question was a good poem it could never be used to bolster someone’s political views. It is contemptible, sentimental drivel by a young woman who is exploiting the plight and pain of genuine refugees by confusing them with duplicitous passport swallowers who have feelings of entitlement and no regard for international borders or the honest people who are lined up in front of them. There is nothing unusual about this poem but there is an insatiable appetite in the West for this type of content and she is just one of many others churning it out, just one of many others who receive awards and grants for her efforts. If she was a white woman of Scottish descent writing about the countless Christians… Read more »

Wally Keeler

“you’re not only trying to persuade me that I’m wrong...” I’m not trying to persuade you about anything. I’m just asserting that your ability to appreciate a poem is wrong. You can stay wrong all your life — I couldn’t care less. It is just when pompous fools presume and posture to be informed poetry critics. 45 calibre mataphors. Surface to sentence similes. Poetry is poetency. Poetry is sometimes best served raw. One of Canada’s greatest poets, Irving Layton, born a Romanian Jew, gave fine advice to poets that they reply with two punches to every punch delivered. I was my honour to be invited into his home. I can boast a lifetime of rubbing elbows with Canada’s best poets and have been counted as amongst them. They know what poetry is, when it is good, when it is doggerel. They spend their lives knowing the difference between elevated language and mediocrity. Tim, you can howl at the moon all you want that the poem is trite and sentimental does not change the fact that the poem is damn good, with enough merit to warrant her awards and position. The ludicrous contention that she is doing for a “lucrative career”… Read more »

Tim

Irving Layton certainly was one of Canada’s greatest poets. I particularly like the Trumpian quote you’ve chosen. Have I just received a double punch? If I have, I didn’t feel anything. For more effect, I suggest you switch to Donald Trump’s policy: ‘Anybody who hits me, we’re gonna hit 10 times harder.’
The subject of this blog is supposed to be immigration, not literary criticism. I didn’t realize it was necessary to have written a poem in order to comment on one but, to get back on topic, I wasn’t commenting on a poem, I was commenting on what it actually is — propaganda.

Wally Keeler

What a crock of absolutes. No wonder your aesthetic abilities are stunted.

“For a free speech crusador, you aren’t very tolerant of other people’s opinions.

What a crock of presumptuous drivel. My intolerance included putting my freedom of speech at risk by smuggling dissident literature out of totalitarian countries. I was editor of the Loyalist College paper back in the early 70s. The student council asked me to lobby for a parade permit and a rally permit. I did so. I was then invited to speak. I advised them that I wanted young Americans brought back home because Vietnam was not worth a single American life. The invite was rescinded. One student council member asked why I got the permits if I had that opinion. I said it was for your right to speak.

I am tolerant of other peoples opinion, because I do not censor them. All of your opinions are still vjsible. I never asked to have them removed or even suggested such a thing. I tolerate your opinion, I just don’t agree with them, There is a significant difference that you are unable to appreciate, just like you are unable to recognize a good poem.

Ralph Torrie

I don’t know who you are Tim, or whatever your name is, and I generally don’t respond to comments from people in public forums like this who don’t use their full, real names. Speaking of the subject of revealing one’s identify, there are reasons why asylum seekers might wish to be anonymous, for example, “Sometimes asylum seekers need false identity documents to be able to get away safely, in this case, they destroy the documents once they no longer need them so they or the people who helped them get the false documents don’t get into trouble”. There is material on the web site of the Canadian Council of Refugees that provides further insights into this topic if you, whoever you may be, wish to learn more: http://ccrweb.ca/en/refugees-and-identity-documents.

Tim

Thank you for the reading material. It might have been enlightening if I hadn’t already read it. My guess is that the real reason for your indignation is that the poem you posted wasn’t as well received as you had anticipated. You wrongly think I’m opposed to asylum seekers. I’m not questioning genuine refugees, in fact, my comment on the poem you were so moved by that you felt compelled to share it ended with “Spare a thought for the genuine refugee.” What I am questioning are the hordes of illegal immigrants, claiming to be refugees, who arrive in Western countries every single day. The reason they destroy their passports is because they know that without identification they won’t be expelled from the country of entry immediately and, while their claim is being processed, there is a good possibility they will be able to disappear into the general population and they often do. The constant mantra “I just want a better life” is beginning to wear a bit thin with me. I’m tired of seeing young able-bodied men fleeing instead of fighting to change the situation in their own countries and they invariably have a wish list of countries they’re… Read more »

Ralph Torrie

I honestly had not made any assumptions about you or your views “Tim” — where is there anything in what I have posted that would suggest that? Believe it or not my post was not really about you. How could it be, as you are a fiction here. Nor was I indignant; it would be a ridiculous waste of energy to be indignant with an anonymous poster.
In any case, it would seem the poem has done what good poetry should do, which is move people and make them think, which it has clearly done for you.

Tim

“Honestly” is not a word that suits you, “Ralph”. If your post wasn’t about me and my views, you might have considered an opening other than, “I do not know who you are Tim…” I don’t know where you got the idea that Tim is not my real name. It’s interesting that you have an issue with the perceived anonymity of a Cobourg-born third-generation Canadian like myself but, at the same time, you’re willing to have our country grant asylum to, then feed, clothe, house, provide medical and dental care for, and educate hundreds of thousands of characters from God knows where who just turn up at our airports or step across our borders.
As for the poem, it’s still bad.

Wally Keeler

The poem is very good. It’s your judgement of poetry that is bad, seriously bad. I know it and many many other poets know it. Show us one of your poems Tim if you are competent to compose one.

Wally Keeler

Likewise Tim, I need no lessons in poetry or elevated language from mediocre commentators.

Wally Keeler

Very interesting point Mr Torrie. Pseudonyms are like undocumented interlopers, dumping their identification papers before commenting in a free democratic forum. The pseudonyms are fearful of something just like the refuges who destroy their identification. Although the fears of refugees have more validity than the pseudonyms to a community blog.

perplexed

I am happy that people see Canada as a safe place for a better way of Life ! That seems to be changing though with all the shootings and stabbings this is not usual to Canada We talk about the number of unemployed but never about the number of New Canadians on assistance here in Can. which they say provides a better standard of living than where they came from BUT that doesn’t mean it should be at the expense of the already established Canadians . Our Seniors have not seen a property increase in their CPP & OAS in yrs nor have the Handicapped this yr the ODSP increase was a Whole $1.80 per month You can’t even buy an icecream cone in the Harbour area of Cobourg for that let alone for your Kids These people ( Canadian Seniors ) are living in many cases on far less and in worse conditions than Refugees . They are also forced to move in many cases to less than desirable conditions as many can no longer afford to live where they grew up and worked especially when living by ones self or supporting a spouse or handicap family member .… Read more »

truthdigger

‘ but never about the number of New Canadians on assistance here in Can.’

Please supply us with this stat, otherwise the statement is just hot air and fake news

Deborah OConnor

Here are the facts about refugees and immigrants to Canada.

Over 250,000 individuals became permanent residents of Canada in 2011, including immigrants and refugees. This number has varied over time, with more economic immigrants and fewer family class immigrants arriving in recent years.

Almost 20% of new permanent residents are children when they arrive, a figure nearly matching the percentage of children within Canada’s overall population.

At the end of 2012, there were nearly 775,000 temporary residents in Canada.

Link to the complete overview that tells us all the different classes of immigrants and refugees, how many in each Canadian cities and more:

https://www.kidsnewtocanada.ca/care/overview

More here:
http://ccrweb.ca/en/glossary

Wally Keeler

Thanks Deb, good post.

Dubious

Lots of interesting stats on those two sites but I don’t see anything about the original question by truthdigger: How many new Canadians and refugees are on assistance?

Deborah OConnor

My post showed that there are different classes of refugees and immigrants. You would need to know the specific category because if immigrants are sponsored by individuals (usually family members already here) they are barred from receiving social assistance in Ontario unless they can prove there is a total breakdown in that relationship. We handled cases at our legal centre where their welfare applications were denied because they had been sponsored. Not easy to prove relationship breakdowns either.

Some info here about refugees and welfare, a whole new ballgame. It’s complicated!
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=098&top=11

Dubious

I suspect that most everyone knows that there are different classes of refugees and immigrants. However, different classes, relationship breakdowns and all of the other details are irrelevant to answering the simple question:
How many new Canadians and refugees are on assistance?

When you have answered the original stimple question perhaps you could also tell us the total annual cost of all support, assistance, ESL, legal aid, medical care, dental care, drugs, etc for refugees and immigrants.

Since some claim that immigrants and refugees are a benefit to the economy, numbers such as these should be readily available. Without the facts how is it possible to conclude that they are a net benefit?

Deborah OConnor

Call our MP, Kim Rudd, for all that info. 372-8757.
I’ve done quite enough research for you today. You’re welcome.

Dubious

So far your “research” has not provided even a hint of an answer to a very simple question: How many new Canadians and refugees are on assistance?

Until you can answer that simple question please don’t waste everyone’s time with irrelevant “research” on classes of immigrants and anecdotes regarding relationship breakdowns.

Wally Keeler

Why don’t you do the research for the answer to your questions? Your demand to your entitlements is getting bloated and weary. Provide some info yourself instead of relying on others, and then scolding them, scolding them. Deborah did not deserve your arrogance.

truthdigger

It seems that you obviously don’t know the answer either, or you would have boasted about it in your normal “Trumpian” style.

Surely you shouldn’t be wasting anybody’s time with your very provocative, almost gaslighting and astroturfing posts (look up the terms, but they are not good qualities to have) and useless questions.

gerinator

I’m perfectly satisfied with the analogy: Children (unasked) whisked away by unknown authorities to unfamiliar locales because of the cruelty of men hiding behind legal jargon. Can anyone say ‘Residential Schools’?? If, as some below predict ‘millions’ then lets prepare now with laws, processes, money and cultural (not the right word but I lack….) learnings to deal with the situation. Let us not be a repeat scenario where ships are turned back and their occupants (men, women and children) are killed because we are not prepared, we did not believe.

Walter L. Luedtke

Fast forwarding from THE WAR, in 2003 Britain and others joined the US in the invasion of Iraq, based on the lie of ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
Canada did not.
“It was a very important decision, no doubt about it. It was, in fact, the first time ever that there was a war that the Brits and the Americans were involved and Canada was not there,” Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
‘Shock and Awe’ caused up to 1,2 million deaths in Iraq and destabilized the entire Middle East, leading to the rise of Isis and the Syrian civil war.
The Syrian Civil War caused 6 million refugees to seek shelter outside the country.
Last year Britain gave asylum to 400 Syrian refugees.
https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/978699/syria-news-christians-uk-refugees-asylum-seekers-Bright-Blue

Bill Thompson

Canada sent peacekeeping forces to Vietnam in 1973 to overlook the Paris Peace Accords.
The war was over in 1975.
You obviously overlooked that fact in your Google searches.

Tim

I honour your intelligence and your good-nature but I can’t agree with much of what you’ve said here. Strangely, when I began reading your column, I thought you were going to surprise everyone by saying that what you had just described was the experience of a child evacuee in 1940s Britain so I was genuinely surprised that it was the experience of a Honduran boy in today’s America. I’m very aware of the situation in the States and I, too, am disgusted that small children have been separated from their parents. However, to suggest that your experience as a boy escaping German bombs was nothing compared to the plight of a Honduran child whose mother has illegally brought him into the States after first passing through Guatemala and Mexico is beyond ridiculous. Escaping domestic violence, gang warfare, or general lawlessness in pursuit of a better life does not qualify anyone as a refugee. Perhaps you and many others would prefer it if the U.S. built a corridor so these people could pass directly from Mexico into Canada. Everyone likes to point to the hypocrisy of America by citing the lyrics to anthems or the words incised on the Statue of… Read more »

Bill Thompson

Key word….Illegal ! That status now referred to “undocumented” by the US and now to “irregular”by the Canadian government.so as not “to offend” in our new politically correct world.
Illegal obviously has a meaning no more in this new age and being ignored to the western countries peril.
Observe what has been taking place in Europe and now here with the government’s blessing with untold millions of dollars being spent while ignoring its own seniors,needy,veterans and homeless.
Sanctuary cities and even province in aid of “irregular” immigrant/”refugees”.violating the law of the country openly..
Toronto mayor (sanctuary city) recently begging the government for money because they’re running out of it . Facts cannot /should not be ignored

Dubious

Perhaps we could put more effort into improving the lot of Northumberland’s poor rather than that of “refugees” who are looking for a better life. Providing free medical/ dental/ drug/ legal/ housing for illegals while Canada’s citizens must go without is absurd.

Old Sailor

I too support legal migration to Canada which we can control. However, Ottawa appears to want to save the planet on Canada’s back, including no borders and no rules for migrants. How long before rafts of illegals start crossing the great lakes to the North Shore?

As noted by others Cobourg many citizens who have paid taxes for decades cannot even get a doctor in Northumberland. Illegal migrants get a blank cheque, a doctor and a copy of the Charter of Rights so they can complain right away.

Very sad state of affairs.

truthdigger

“Illegal migrants get a blank cheque, a doctor and a copy of the Charter of Rights so they can complain right away.”

What a load of old bollocks you write, definitely fake news in this statement, please cite sources for it.

Deborah OConnor

I hope readers click on this source because the key disclaimer on EVERY point was that “SOME” refugees may receive these services. Some could be as few as 5%, which puts it into a whole different category.

Here’s another reality that we lucky first world residents need to understand – that millions of migrants are headed our way in the future, driven away from their homes by war, droughts, and climate change. Since we need new immigrants to work and pay taxes in Canada, we should welcome them with open arms. My family members were all immigrants a hundred years ago, weren’t yours?

Old Sailor

Ask Mayor Tory how many more illegal migrants he wants in Toronto? All the motels on Kingston Road jammed are full of them. No more room in the city. No more budget if there ever was one.

The other towns and cities will be next on the Liberal hit list. Canada is not set up to handle this volume plus the normal 3-400,000 of front door immigrants.

Kind of like the pipeline issue. Easier for the Liberals to let it fester than to solve it.

Countries in Europe are going through populist movements where they no longer want a free flow of illegal migrants. Ms. Merkel’s German party may be defeated over this issue. Look at what caused Brexit.

Dubious

…millions of migrants are headed our way in the future

That statement is an unassailable argument for a stronger military and coast guard! Yes, my family members were immigrants but not “undocumented” criminals in search of a better life at the expense of the lawful citizens. And yours?

Old Sailor

Dubious, our family was started by a 20 year old Irishman who came into Canada through the front door, with his 21 year old brother, in 1905. They were sponsored by a farmer in Argyle, Ontario who paid their ship’s fare. The deal was they work off their fare at the farm, which they both did. My grandfather then obtained a professional degree at U of T and built a very successful professional practice in Toronto.

Not all of these stories have such happy endings but back then they all came through the front door. And we knew who they were when their ship landed. Not like what is going on at the Quebec and Manitoba border.

Europe will lead the way in changing this “irregular” flow.

Dubious

My comment was directed to Deborah rather than to you. Sorry for the confusion.
My ancestors arrived from Germany in the 1880s and also by the front door.

Susie-Q

The issue many people have is that they are knowingly entering this country illegally and many appear to be getting “rewarded” for it. My family were all immigrants as well, however, they did not get ANY handouts and did not cross any borders illegally. There are proper channels to go through. Many individuals who are hoping to become residents of our country are choosing to follow the rules. I imagine that this situation is frustrating for them to watch as they wait for their turn.

Walter L. Luedtke

Do you know the difference between an ‘illegal immigrant’ and a ‘refugee’.
You obviously don’t.
Google it!

Bill Thompson

I think you mean “irregular” immigrant”
and ” irregular” refugee.
The term “illegal” has been superseded by people kind.

Walter L. Luedtke

Huh?