Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Canada – CCCXXI. Difficult Beginnings (4 of 15)

The ensuing period of unemployment showed me why Canada was such a desirable country to live in.

Montrose employed me long enough to allow me to qualify for unemployment insurance.  Back then, you needed to have worked X number of weeks before receiving benefits; and those benefits were a percentage of the wages made before becoming unemployed.  How long you received your unemployment cheque depended on how long you worked.  As well, there was a maximum period (I believe it was one year) and a maximum amount paid.  While receiving your benefits, you were expected to actively be looking for work; and you filed a weekly report to that effect.  (The rules are largely the same today; but qualifying period, maximum period of time you get paid, and so on has changed).

I received 50% of my weekly salary or $25.00 per week.  Was that enough to live on?  Not only was it enough, I managed to save part of it!  I lived more frugally during that period, but many things were still possible; for instance, if I had no job interviews on that day, I went to a movie; and why not?  Sitting home and brooding was not going to enhance my state of mind.

My roommate at the time was Foufou; and he offered to pay a larger share of the rent.  I would have taken him up on his generous offer, except that that never proved necessary.  On a weekly basis, my rent was $10.00; food, transportation, and miscellaneous was another $10.00; leaving me with an extra $5.00 that I could (and did) save!

No fancy restaurant during that period, but Foufou had discovered on Ste. Catherine Street East a restaurant that served hearty and tasty meals, all at amazingly low prices.  The only problem was with the clientele.  Poor people frequented this establishment; on occasions homeless people dined there.  To quote Foufou:  “Once you get used to the smell, you can proceed to devour your meal!”  And he proved right!

It wasn’t long before I was able to find a job. It was a factory manufacturing luggage.  “Holiday Luggage” was far from an ideal employer; during the interview, I was told that they have had a problem finding the “right” person.  Something didn’t look right here, and in retrospect it was a mistake to take that job, but at the time, I figured that it was better than being unemployed.

I was supposed to assist the bookkeeper, and I was given a small desk in a corner of the factory.  The work was simple, the pay was good, and the bookkeeper was a kind old man.  So where was the problem?

By the second day, the foreman, asked me to leave my paperwork, and come to help in the shipping department.  There was no heavy lifting involved, but I was hired for an office position and not as a shipping clerk; I did point that out, but I was told that goods had to be shipped out and that there was no choice in the matter; everybody had to help.  And indeed, only the old bookkeeper was spared.

By the third day, I hardly sat at my desk.  And my own work was piling up.  I also worked overtime (unpaid of course!) on most nights.

A difficult situation was developing, and the foreman solved the problem for me when he called me on Friday night and fired me!  I was to come on Monday and collect my paycheque.  I would also be given the documentation required for the Unemployment Insurance Office.  We parted amicably, but unbeknown to me, the foreman had thrown a monkey wrench in the machinery.

He notified the Unemployment people that I had quit!  The result according to the rules was that my benefits would be cut-off for 6 weeks.  A silly move really since he had no resignation letter from me.  And why he did that is unclear to me to this day.  At any rate, until my benefits were reinstated, I would have no income.

My next move was to go to immigration.  My immigration officer immediately contacted the Unemployment Office, and to tide me over, cut a cheque for me.  I was to come once a week and get paid until the issue was resolved.  And eventually, after 3 weeks my weekly payments were restored.  My officer at immigration was very happy to hear the news.

Six weeks after losing my position at Montrose, I finally found another job.  Again, as a “Sample Maker!”  The pay was only $40.00 a week, to be increased to $50.00 if I was the right person.  And they kept their promise; a month after I joined my salary was “increased” to $50.00.

It was now obvious to me that I had a steep hill to climb in my new country.  It was not going to be easy; but I had enough self-confidence to realize that while these were difficult beginnings, I would find my rightful place in Canadian society.

Comments are closed.