March 16, 2003. Temperature -9C at CYOW (but I imagined that it felt like -20).

I chose that day to immigrate to Canada, since it was (supposed to be) the first day of spring, and therefore, be warm. Nothing farther from the truth.

Tired from flying all day, it took three differen American Airlines flights to reach Ottawa. It started very early with the first fight from Bogota to Miami, then Miami to Chicago, and then finally, Chicago to Ottawa.

I remember the changing landsacape seen from the airplane window. The departure from Bogota, in a cold morning, with green and mountains, shortlived, since it was covered by clouds as the airplane quickly ascended. Then the caribbean sea, and later the beaches and warmth of Miami, followed by the endless green pastures of the American East until reaching Chicago with the first hints of cold weather, and finally on the final leg of the trip, endless white snow covered landscapes lighted up by the orange sunset.

If I remember correctly, I arrived around 9 or 10 pm, on a Sunday.

The first thing to see from the airplane door was the very tall snow bank at the far side of the apron. Then walked from the airplane to the old Ottawa Airport terminal, no boarding fingers at that time.

At the CBSA counter, being greeted with a “Welcome to Canada” followed by a “This is the warmest day we had this winter”.

After doing all the paperwork for customs and immigration, and waiting for the luggage from the flight, I called a very good friend that offered to pick me up. But the consequences of that simple act were far more reaching, since he opened his house for the first days, found me a basement appartment to rent, and his family became my adoptive family here in Canada. Its priceless to have someone to call when you arrive to a foreign country after taking the jump of immigrating to another country.

Happy St. Patricks Day.

Has Canada betrayed its Immigrants?

In election time, the Harper Government is “Putting Canadians First”. This should not be true only in election time, but always.

But is also true that the same Harper Government has used Temporary Foreign Workers as political pawns, and now that the consequences of an stop gap ill conceived plan to bring immigrants to do minimum wage jobs are surfacing.

The Industry says that they have the immediate need for qualified foreign workers, yet the TFW program has only filled minimum wage works in the fast food, restaurants, farms, etc.

The unions say that the TFW program has kept wages artificially low, by importing cheap labour. Besides a TFW is not unionised and cannot strike.

Most of the work visas are expiring after April 1, with no path for a TFW to remain in Canada, a massive exodus of minimum-wage immigrant workers will begin, just in time for elections, only in Alberta, there could be up to 17000 TFWs, no one is keeping counts.

This just exposes a cruel truth, Immigrants don’t vote.

Heart breaking cases such as the one of Maria Victoria Venancio brings to light the gaps of the TFW program. A TFW works, earns a living, and pays taxes, but its denied all the privileges of a citizen.

Imagine a Canadian going to work to a fast food chain, for a minimum wage, getting hit by a car and being left quadriplegic. It’s a tragedy, but as Canadian, his healthcare is covered, empolyment insurance kicks in, and with time and patience, he can recover and return to be a productive worker.

If the same happens to a TFW, there is no coverage. Tough luck. Go back home.

I am an Immigrant, by choice, and I am eternally grateful to this country that opened its arms to me, and allowed me to bring my wife, and have my two daughters born here. But the treatment that we are giving TFWs is not Canadian.

Canada is a country built by immigrants, but now, as TFWs don’t have a path to remain in Canada as permanent residents and eventually become citizens (who can vote), they enter a legal limbo and they must make the choice between returning home, or staying illegally in this country, creating a sub-culture of illegal workers.

The immigration system is broken, and now it’s harder than ever to come and immigrate to Canada. The idea was to bring to Canada qualified immigrants that contribute to society, the promise was that with hard work, Canada can provide opportunities for a good life. Now I am not sure any more.

Two Celebrations today!

Today I have two reasons to celebrate.

First: Eight Years ago I arrived to Canada as an Immigrant. As always, and year after year, the balance has been on the positive side. I cannot complain. It has been wonderful to come and live in Canada, a country that opened its welcoming arms from the first day, and it’s more wonderful that my wife (best friend and lover) has also decided to come along for the adventure.

Second: St. Patrick’s Day.

Two very good reasons to keep Guinness in business.

7 Years in Canada!

Como en años anteriores, el balance es realmente positivo, especialmente por la adición de Natasha a la familia desde Diciembre.

El trío fantástico del MIJ (Manipulador de Información Jerárquica), la tesis de grado para Ingeniería de Sistemas de la ECI en el 2000; Andres Rojas, Andres Paredes, y este servidor, nos reunimos por cosas de la vida como inmigrantes a este país.

El invierno realmente no fue tran crudo, ni tan largo, y estamos viviendo una temprana y muy cálida primavera, que espero sea el anticipo de un soleado verano.