canada’s immigration museum

June 22, 2010

in april 2010, i learned from CBC radio that Nova Scotia is to house Canada’s immigration museum at Pier 21. apparently, the decision was made a couple months prior.

i moved away from there around the same time… with a very dirty taste in my mouth. as a visible minority and racialized, child of two immigrant parents, born, raised, and participant in its institutions, i am less than amused about the potential for the museum to promote the image of Nova Scotia as an accepting place to land.

sure, my parents lived the “american dream”. but they suffered horribly due to barriers that were explicit forms of racial discrimination. many social science undergraduate students in Canada will know of the injustices to black high school students in Cole Harbour, that, until recently,were purported by officials as merely teen antics.

in my own experience, i saw “white vs black” battles split student bodies, my multi-cultural group of friends separate into social cliques and physical ghettos, was called every slur-name in the book as a kid, and cat-called every exotic-name as a teen. as an adult, i witness others go through the same experiences as my parents, and as i have and did while living there most recently.

in my wildest dreams, the museum will ratify the injustices that occurred, and continue to occur to immigrants establishing themselves in NS. realistically, i know this highly unlikely. i’m sorry.

excuse me as i raise a weary eyebrow to the state’s “sorry” state. even for Nova Scotia’s most recent apology and pardon for the racist jailing of viola desmond for sitting in the whites’ section of a theatre over 60 years ago. i can’t help but think it’s all part of a multicultural public relations campaign to attract international students, new immigrants, and tourists from the rest of Canada, who may be inclined to go… say, anywhere else instead.

surely i understand the desire to attract “foreign investment” to this province, but i could not comfortably recommend NS as a good place for any visible minority that is new to Canada. Immigrant integration services are sparse and tools to succeed as an international student suck compared to many cities in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. of course, maybe that’s the point? the province one “lands” in gets a huge lump sum, whether or not one stays. international students pay tuition fees that are nearly three times more than the price for domestic students. whereas both student groups have similar attrition rates, the internationals have often been fiercely hunted to bolster the domestics. one failed international student + one failed domestic student = tuition for one 4-year domestic undergraduate. better yet, if the international student makes it to year 2 on his/her own volition, marks for the student body go up and the university now gets the equivalent of 5-6 years of tuition.

at best, i perceive government messaging to “incorporate” immigrants as well-meaning but offensive; and partly to blame for reifying model minority stereotypes. this leaves individuals stuck on un-learning the spectrum of stereotypes from the media around them, (potentially, hopefully?, with the help of this “immigration museum”), rather than in a face-to-face dialogue.

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