A year that wasn’t for immigrants

Iqbal Sidhu 

This year has been a quite one for the most part, if one forgets about the antics of PM Justin Trudeau in India in the beginning of the year and reactions that it generated, both here in Canada and internationally, or the hysteria that President Donald Trump whipped up with his unhinged drivel — often on Twitter — aimed at Canada, which left many blue collar workers in the auto-industry, many of them immigrants, wondering if their future was secure in this country. 

To count this year as a quite year for the diaspora one will also have to discount the occasional social upheavals that happened, sometimes in the form of international students, mostly Punjabis, bashing each other with hockey sticks and bats in streets of Brampton, or the ever-so-ubiquitous fist-fighting between members of rival gurdwara management committees of North America. 

Most South Asian immigrants have come a long way in terms of social maturity. Many feel out-of-place when visiting their countries of origin but at least a small part of their south Asian cultural heritage has stayed with them and just wouldn’t let go. This  heritage manifests itself now and then. Sometimes the manifestations are benign and amusing, such as during a cultural fair, or a mela as it’s called here. However, on other occasions, the manifestations are horrifying, such as rallies that are carried out in support of extremist religious-political movements back home. This year saw both of them. 

Last year ended on a not-so-high note for the diaspora, but 2018 promised much. Most of that promise has now faded, and 2018 will be over as a disappointing year. There were municipal elections all across Canada in the fall of 2018 and many in the South Asian community across the country feel that the results could have been better. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came in the crosshairs of Trump and he is bent on repealing it. A new trade deal, CUSMA, was signed this year. It is meant to supersede NAFTA but its signing and Trudeau’s assurance to Canadians haven’t assuaged the fears of many, including the South Asian diaspora which has a lot riding on cross-border trade and manufacturing as they work in the trucking industry and factories as blue collar workers.

In many ways, 2018 has been a year of preparation. Trenches have been dug and supplies have been hoarded for the battles ahead, both political and economic. As a global economic slowdown looms and trade wars between protectionist US and other countries, especially China, rage on, there is immense uneasiness among the people in Canada. About 90 per cent of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the Canada-US border, and almost the entire diaspora lives within it.

All Canadian commerce hinges on the mood of the US economy and at the moment, the diaspora is living uncertainly.  Politically, 2018 has been the year of preparation because the spring of 2019 will bring provincial elections in Alberta and then federal elections will follow in the fall of 2019. Trudeau and the Liberals worked hard during 2018 to convince Canadians that there is no alternative. Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives worked hard to prove the exact opposite while Jagmeet Singh and the NDP proved that they are relevant. What comes out of this remains to be seen, the federal elections in 2019 will be the litmus test. 

Overall, 2018 has not been the best year on record, but also, it could have been a lot worse.

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