(By Aboud Dandachi)
May 5th 2020, day God knows what of the COVID-19 lockdown. Some of my friends have been very kind in calling me and making sure I was doing OK. These are stressful times for everyone, and my friends were concerned that with all the restrictions and lockdowns, it might be bringing back some unpleasant memories.
G-d bless them. Well, if anyone is curious what life is like for a former Syrian refugee during COVID-19 in Canada, here it is.
It is no different from the experience of any other Canadian from a similar socio-economic background.
And that’s why, heaven forgive me, I’m enjoying lockdown alot more than I should admit 😐
When I came to Canada, I wanted one thing above all else. Not to stand out. Not to be treated differently. Back in Turkey or Lebanon, a refugee might as well have had a big scarlet R on their forehead. Think Jean Valjean with his papers declaring his criminal background. Well, at least Valjean *had* papers…
The moment I landed in Canada, my status was immediately changed at Pearson Airport from being a refugee applicant, to a Permanent Resident. And since that day I have been regarded just like any other immigrant to Canada.
Weeeeeeeeell…actually that’s *not* quite true. Anyone who wants an OHIP health card has to have lived three months in Ontario. That requirement is waived for refugees. Sorry…
But basically, if I needed CERB, I’d get CERB. If I needed medical assistance, I’d get it. If I wanted to take a trip to lovely Manitoba…I’d have to sit my ass down and wait like the rest of the country.
Standing in line at Loblaws and No Frills? I love it! I love the sense of everyone being on an equal footing when getting supplies. Believe me, that isn’t the case in some parts of the world. On the Greek island of Lesbos, where they have a center for migrants, refugees from Africa are usually pushed to the back of the queue for food and meals. In Syria, before any supplies are distributed, the security and government officials get first pickings. Stand in line? I’d be happy to stand as long as it takes.
And my friends, a totally new world awaits us after this is over. You will find a new appreciation for the most common of activities. You will appreciate even more visiting friends at their homes, eating at the simplest of restaurants, popping into grocery shops whenever you like. Even filling up gas and using the public transit will seem like a joy. It’s not for nothing I love tapping my Presto card at the buses.
Far from life being any different for me as a former refugee, my friends and neighbors are going to experience the joys a refugee feels at normal, everyday life 😊