[personal profile] chanter_greenie
I have [personal profile] technoshaman to thank for sponsoring this one! :) The only warnings that apply are not particularly graphic but still present references to historical mistreatment.


Is not heaven.

Make no mistake, locals think it's great.
It's a beautiful place,
and it has, by and large, wonderful people.
Everyone from radio personalities on the CBC
to the Prime Minister's office
to folks like Helen and Toliver and Celine and Meg
have said all that before,
and doubtless will again.

But it's not heaven.
It's not Utopia, or Equality Central, or perfect.
Far from it.
The regular citizens will tell you that too,
even if you won't catch the PM saying the same.

The whole 'streets paved with gold' idea
has already been emphatically skipped over;
thankfully that was only ever a hyperbole
ascribed to the land both south of the border
and a hundred and fifty plus years distant in time.

But the railroad stories -
positive, Underground and negative, mistreated Chinese track workers -
carry weight even today.
So do the residential schools, the bruises,
the force-forgotten languages
and the shorn-off braids of First Nations children.
Then again, so do Saint Lawrence,
and Gander, and Mississauga,
and the meaning of the country's name.

And so do forty odd years
of recent history down Washington's way,
especially what's gone on since the war ended in '76
and certain people started fighting against
that high mark of a Civil Rights Act in earnest.
Against a few other things too,
albeit with half the press coverage.

Heaven can be pretty subjective, sometimes.

"People still... y'know, steal here,"
is how Sandy puts it
to a couple of incoming Americans.
"They do all the usual things -
cheat, discriminate, lie and manipulate,
don't take out the garbage,
leave the dishes in the sink,
the same as everybody else.

"That last one's the voice of experience," chuckles Leigh.
Sandy snorts amusement, makes a face and shrugs,
conceding the point to his twinkling-eyed wife
before sobering up and going on.

"People do still hate up here," he says.
"If I didn't tell you that,
then I'd be the liar I'm warning you about.
Sometimes it can get pretty terrible.
It's just that our definition of terrible..."
and their definition of sometimes,
but one thing at a time,
"... is a little different
than what you're probably used to."

Leigh's eyebrows go up - understatement of the century, Sandy! -
but her mouth quirks
in an amused and fond expression
that her husband knows well indeed.
Sandy keeps his face neutral
with a little less effort than it takes
to haul a load of split wood to a campfire.
If he doesn't, he's not sure
whether he'll end up laughing or choking up,
and he cannot risk dropping
his own vulnerability on new arrivals.
They don't need half a wall caving in on them,
even a little bit,
after the roof's already blown off.

It's not the devil, he does not add,
in the details this time.

Canada's not heaven from shore to shore
any more than the States are the opposite idea.
But there's a lot to be said,
and everybody in the cell knows it,
for being that much further from personal hells.

Notes are thisaway:

*The title and theme of this poem both came from this Al-Jazeera story about Syrian refugees and their Canadian sponsors.

*In the orange!verse, the Vietnam War did not end until 1976. Not coincidentally, neither did Nixon's presidency.

*In our world, Gander, Newfoundland has a reputation for helping stranded airline passengers in desperate situations. It's got a similar one in the orange!verse, though in their case, that reputation's been built on several somewhat less fraught instances over a number of years. The idea is the same, though.

*Saint Lawrence, Newfoundland has its own reputation, for kind treatment of shipwreck survivors. That one *did* happen in the orange!verse. It had, for obvious reasons, ripples beyond even what it had here, and it is well remembered on both sides of the border, especially in certain circles. Warning: the above link is to a playable audio story containing some vivid and disturbing Jim Crow era details indeed.

*The name Canada comes from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, which means 'village'.

Date: 2016-05-12 05:39 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
correction, and memory....

eutopia -> utopia

The bit about coming out to Canada reminds me of Heather Dale's "Fille du roy"... there really were orphan women that France paid to go to New France; whether the story of this individual actually happened this way, no doubt at least a few fell in love with the sailors on the way.... :)



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