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 – Italy – CCXIV. Our Immigration Options (4 of 10)

“You mean you didn’t apply to the Canadian consulate yet, what are you waiting for?” “Canada is a wonderful country, don’t let some snow scare you!” The Egyptians at Il Torinesi didn’t harass us all the time, but they kept reminding us that we needed to look at all options. Some had already their visas and were waiting to leave. Others had been sponsored by close relatives, and their prospects were good. Finally, some were determined to get there, come hell or high water. One day, one of Canada’s devotees proclaimed, “that Canada was better than America!” This, of course, was heresy, for nothing surpassed America in the eyes of Egyptians!

When the first group were ready to board their ship, we all wished them good luck; for they were going to arrive in Canada in March, when winter’s fury could still be unleashed. Essentially, what they said was, “It’s already warmer in March.” “The harshness of the winter in Canada has been greatly exaggerated. How cold can it be?” Years later, I remembered those comments while waiting for a bus when the temperature was -20°C. I also recalled times when March (or even April) was vicious. At times, when I remembered our innocence, I laughed; at other times it was too cold to do so!

The people at the Canadian consulate were polite, but no more. We were told that if we had no sponsor, there was no point in even completing an application.

The “experts” on the Canadian question practically ordered us to get the required documents; they would then tell us what to say when it came time to explain why we wanted to immigrate to Canada. We were a young family with a lot of potential, and knew both official languages. What more can Canada asks?

While they had a point, Nisso was still hesitating. Two factors prompted him to return to the consulate, and this time walk out with the necessary applications (really a voluminous pile of paper, with copies of everything to use as drafts, before completing the final forms).

We were to go to Il Torinese and complete the drafts using their “professional” help. And indeed, they assisted us in making a strong case. The discussions around these forms, and the advice we received are too long to be reproduced here. Sufficient to say, that Egyptians’ advice is generally presented as the definitive word on the subject!

And so, one day, the four of us, armed with a brown envelope stuffed with paper trooped into the Canadian consulate. I no longer recall who we met, but I remember an official quickly going through our forms and asking us questions. The last thing he said was that it will take time, and he wished us good luck.

So what were the reasons which prompted us to give serious consideration to The Great White North?

There came a time when things were not going well with our request to immigrate to Australia. The consulate was telling us that Australia was overwhelmed by all the applications it has received; and the letters from the Ovadias were confirming that sad fact.

The second reason was really silly; but it is too amusing to omit.

In 1957, a cute song came out called, “Casetta in Canada….” (My home in Canada). Its first stanza went something like that:

Aveva una casetta piccolina in Canada… Con vasche, pesciolini e tante fiori di lilla… e tutte le ragazze che passavano di la… dicevano: “che bella la casetta in Canada…!”

Approximately, what this part of the song says is: I have a little house in Canada with ponds, fish, and flowers of lilac, and all the people who went by said: “how beautiful is the house in Canada!”

For some reason we loved that song and it awakened our desire to go to Canada, if Australia didn’t pan out.

Like we did with Australia, we were on the lookout for Canadians that came to the restaurant. And again it wasn’t easy. But one day, a retired Canadian couple who were touring Europe sat with us, and filled us in on their country.

We listened to them religiously. After all those years, this is what I recall:

“Canada has wide open spaces, and many wild areas where you could escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Most people had their own detached homes; and many had a cottage in the woods, usually near a body of water; they went there in the summer to relax on weekends.”

“Canadians are polite and kind, and they will do anything possible to help you out.”

“Opportunities for employment were plentiful, but it took a while for an immigrant to acquire the confidence of potential employers. But not to worry, The Immigration Department helped you financially, and in any other required way.”

“Self-employment is encouraged, and my dad with his business experience would be helped through advice, grants, and loans.”

“Education is highly-prized, and the education of your children could be continued.”

“Medical Care is covered, but at the hospital level only; if you needed to see a doctor, or to buy medicine, you had to pay for it, unless you were insured.” (Full Medicare like we have now came much later; in the ’50s, Canadians were provided with Hospital Insurance only).

Being mature, and knowing their country well, they provided us with all the details we needed. When they asked us if we had questions, we realized that there were none; they had covered all the bases.

Two more points were discussed at the end.

“Where to live?” There we caught them by surprise. We mentioned two provinces: Québec (because of our French education), and Newfoundland (because of the war). Of course, we knew that there should be more provinces, but what were they and what did they offer to newcomers? They gave us the names of the 10 Canadian provinces, but, of course they did not know all there is to know about each of them. They themselves, as far as I remember, were Maritimers. Since we knew French, they advised us to live in Quebec

The most delicate question was left for the end: the weather.

“Yes, Canada can be very cold in the winter, but it is not the frozen land it’s been made to be, nor are the bears strolling in the streets of big cities! Houses, offices, and stores are well heated; Canadians have learned to live with their winters. Even buses are heated, but cars are not, they are left in the garage in the winter*. After a snow storm, the streets are quickly cleaned, rarely does a storm paralyse a city. Most Canadians do not fight their winters, they have learned to enjoy it.”

[* Sometimes in the ’60s, the first heated cars came on the market. Before that a heated car was very expensive and few people could afford one.]

“Seven months of the year are spring and summer, and summers can be quite hot.”

We thanked them profusely and remarked that they have been very gracious. The last thing they said was, “we hope to see you in Canada.” And we eventually came to Canada, but many years later.

Our request for immigration did indeed take a long time. When we left Italy, we still had no response. Canada was not for now; it would be a part of our future.

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