ANOTHER COUNTRY BY M.M. Afrah
EXCLUSIVE TO BANADIR.COM
An extract from a new book by M.M. Afrah to be published
in Canada in the winter of 2002.
gained speed on the bumpy runway and Keynaan kept glancing
back expecting a half-truck mounted with double-barrelled
37mm anti-aircraft guns pursuing the plane or a mortar round
hitting it sent a shiver up his spine.
was in sight.
pilot was as eager as his terrified passengers and put distance
between them and the hellish airstrip. The crowd at the airstrip
was little more than grey shapes against stark-white backdrop
of well-compacted sand dunes and a cloudless blue sky, the
colour of Somalia's national flag.
back to think about his two-bedroom on Wellesley Street -
trimmed lawns, cool, leafy maple trees, red town houses with
white-columned front porches and flowers of every colour and
description. From his balcony at night he enjoyed gazing at
the city's skyline. He particularly enjoyed gazing at the
imposing CNE Tower and the Sky Dome nearby.
this stuffy Soviet-era aircraft, Toronto seems to beckon Keynaan:
"WELCOME back to Toronto, welcome to our midst. See how polite
and friendly we are, how tender and easy. There are no warlords
(only landlords), no military dictators, no militia, no guns
and no dangerous escapades. We overcome almost everything
here, apart from occasional racist slurs and denial of Residence
Permits to some visible minorities, like the undocumented
Somali refugees. But they are never hungry or lacked shelter
and medical care. We are logical here, rationale.
all right to think about racism, but it wasn't all right to
issue racial insults in public. After all, Canada is multi-ethnic
and multi-cultural society. We are a nation of immigrants.
Stay put and you'll have your day, eh!"
like Toronto in Ontario and Vancouver in British Colombia
are the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Almost every
nationality is being represented there. In the streetcars
or in the subways one heard fragments of Armenian, Greek,
Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Amharic, Somali, Urdu,
Russian, Vietnamese and a dozen of Chinese dialects, including
Mandarin and Cantonese.
trafficking and violent murder are low compared to the south
of the border where violent crimes are so prevalent that they
are no longer newsworthy and are sometimes relegated to page
six. But the police in this country of 30 million souls are
often accused of racism against visible minorities.
an affluent society, but one day Keynaan watched a figure
collapse inside a bus shelter. A derelict in a tattered overcoat,
and there are many hundreds of them in Metro Toronto, curled
up inside the bus shelter, his boots protruding from the open
the mainstream newspapers said the unidentified white male
was frozen to death. Paradoxically, there was a life-size
poster advertising sizzling Maggi Macaroni con carne on the
side of the bus shelter showing a street scene of Toronto
with the CNE Tower in the background.
letters to the editor, most Canadians said these street people
are useless to themselves, and to anyone else. Many of them
refuse to go special shelters for the homeless because of
the strict curfew - doors are closed promptly at 10 p.m. and
no alcoholic beverages. And, of course, no smoking. Most of
them are alcoholics and chain-smoked.
there was a police crackdown on street people and squeegee
kids, critics retort that the police are engaged in wide spread,
unlawful violation of constitutional rights of anyone who
happens to be poor and on the streets. There is even a vocal
organisation that represents the homeless. Margaret Atwood,
the legendary best selling Canadian author said that in Canada
you could say what you like because no one will listen to
from war-torn Somalia, one day Keynaan observed the ever-present
panhandlers (beggars) in the fashionable Bay and Bloor Streets.
"Buddy, can you spare a dime or a quarter?" They hiss. They
look exhausted, their faces drawn and their eyes sunken and
colourless. But no one seemed to notice them. Passers-by simply
avoided them as if they were lepers.
are politely called sex workers and their clients are johns,
despite vigorous protests from people with that name. Homosexuality
is legalised. A popular story in Somalia (authenticated by
this author) says a Somali camel herder had committed suicide
by stabbing himself to death with his own dagger when he was
told that homosexuality exists in many countries! When this
author recently repeated this story to a gathering of White
Canadians, everybody was flabbergasted. They said that the
man must have been out of his mind! Evidently they do not
know the Somali people.
are ridings. Burglary is home invasion. And illegal drugs
are controlled substances. Non-Anglos, non-Europeans are labelled
as "ethnics". Economic refugees who sneaked into Canada by
cargo vessels from China are referred as "gate-crashers" and
"cue jumpers". Paedophiles in this cosmopolitan city are galore,
alive and kicking.
is the only country in the world with a Language Police. The
Province of Quebec enacted controversial language laws that
sought laws to free the French speakers from the majority
of English Canada. Recent visitors led by Keynaan to the province
were met with stony faces when they tried to speak English
in a Montreal department store. They narrowly escaped from
all the powerful Language Police. A storeowner was fined because
his parrot greets customers at the door in English. Another
shop owner was willing to go to jail over English sign because
the Government Inspector said the French Letters must be larger
under Quebec language laws. The prosecutor said the man has
a history of reoffending and should be given a stiff sentence.
He has become a cause celebre in English Canada.
defenders of the French language in Quebec are worried sick
about the encroachment of English into their province. But
the invasion of computer jargons and hi-tech super information
highway in the world there's nothing much they could do to
stem the tide. They even attempted to translate www.dot.com
in French in vain.
© By M.M.Afrah 2001 All rights are reserved