Interview: Refugees and Immigrants Needs Canada
Interviewer: Nicole Sukhomlinova. Interviewee: Andrea Vulinovic
Why do you think refugees need Canada/ what do you think Canada has to offer for refugees?
A country such as Canada offers security and allows its citizens to feel safe with no government corruption. The country is quite welcoming to foreigners. Being Canadian doesn’t necessarily mean that you were born here, instead, it means how you can relate to the country that you are living in. Being an immigrant to Canada, does not mean that you have to abandon certain cultural ties, heritage or nationality that you identify with. You can be bi-national. This is very unique about Canada -it encourages diversity and embraces that factor, rather than viewing it from a negative perspective.
Your personal story concerning this issue?
My family came out of a time of crisis in their lives. My parents never knew what was going to happen back in Yugoslavia. They did not expect that there would be a war that would change their lives forever. My father did not want to participate in the war, therefore they relocated to Germany as refugees. In Germany it was not quite as welcoming of a place, there was very much of a sense of “you’re a refugee” and I’m not. You were viewed differently if you were not of German heritage. That sort of mentality, a closed concept of nationality, is very opposite to Canada’s view on refugees. In Germany, my parents didn’t have it easy, as refugees they lived in a one bedroom apartment with no regular employment as well as under the table work. There were no real opportunities for them to advance in their lives. They were stuck in the position of being immigrants and were barely able to cover the basic necessities needed to survive. My parents kept on getting their papers extended, and as a result I was born there. My parents weren’t allowed to immigrate to Germany and people from Yugoslavia started marrying German men and working under the table for their whole lives just to be able to stay in Germany. However, during this time Canada was starting to accept immigrants
My family always say it was the best decision in their life to move to Canada. Even though my parents are both university educated and have qualities that would’ve allowed them to immigrate, they were not accepted in Germany. In Canada however, my parents were accepted. Right away we decided to move to Vancouver. The first few years in Canada, my family was trying to figure out how to make ends meet. We lived in a very small apartment, even to this day my parents work very hard to assure that my brother and I receive a university level education. It wasn’t easy for them, however my mother and father were able to reach a position of stability and financial comfort. Even though they did not have the best starting point in Vancouver, we now live in a house, my brother and I are both educated at a university level. I am able to travel, I don’t feel that the fact that I am an immigrant affects my life in a negative way. I am able to integrate into this community, I don’t face discrimination, and I feel like a true Canadian. I am seen as another Canadian among Canadians. At the same time, we are able to stick with our cultural traditions. I still speak Serbian which is my mother language, I have been able to visit my home country, explore my culture, and also embrace the culture we have in Canada. I’ve lived a rich cultural experience. I am extremely grateful for what Canada has offered for me. My parents feel as though they succeeded in life in providing the best for their children.
Do you think Canada’s response to refugees or immigrants has changed since your parents immigrated?
Things have changed in the sense that the criteria that is needed to meet is a bit more rigorous. It is understandable since there are a lot of people trying to immigrate to Canada. Canada’s trying to be selective, however the multicultural aspect of Canada hasn’t changed much and is still very inclusive in my opinion. We can see with the Syrian refugee crisis, Canada reacted with open arms even though there was a little bit of hesitation. Obviously we are impacted with what we see in the world, and people are more paranoid about terror attacks with recent events. With Donald Trump’s immigration ban and Brexit, we can see that people are more xenophobic and tend to “build walls” against each other. This has impacted Canada in a way such as Bill C51 (which is an example of a Canadian policy taking a more firm stance on immigration). There is higher security than we are used to, and some could say that we are “falling into the United States’ footsteps.” People in Canada aren’t afraid of immigrants and see them as people who are struggling. We have luxuries that we want everyone else to enjoy. When the Trudeau government came into power, they responded favourably about the intake of Syrian refugees and continued in that path rather than follow Trump and the US’s policies.
Would you change anything about Canada’s policies?
Yes. Although Canada takes care of their immigrants and refugees and offers a decent amount of support for them, I believe Canada should offer more support towards the First Nations living in our country. We cannot neglect people who have been living there for centuries before us. Canada needs to ensure that First Nations people can also receive financial support. Canada needs to extend affirmative action programs because it is clear that First Nations living conditions do not match up to the rest of Canadians. Many First Nations communities do not have running water, which is ridiculous. We also need to take more initiative into Murder and Missing indigenous women. In my opinion, the initiative didn’t progress much and instead it should be extended to more than just an inquiry.
This interview was conducted as part of POL 121: Science, Policy, and Innovation