I Too Am ImmortalizedBy: Varak Babian | Posted on: 10.05.2012
It was early morning as we arrived at the parking lot, tucked away behind an Orthodox church. As I boarded the Can-Ar bus headed to Ottawa, I couldn’t help but flex my observing muscle. The setting seems familiar…
I reminded myself that though my destination was Ottawa, the purpose of the trip wasn’t our pilgrimage-type protest. It was late March, not late April, and I was a guest, along with 39 members of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada. Our bus was filled with individuals who had a passion for journalism, and as the bus was making its way, different languages began to fill the space we were sharing. While my newly acquainted Ethiopian friend and I found common ground within the aesthetics of our respected alphabets, I could not stay indifferent at the sense of unity amongst us all. Immigrants, who shared a love for their adopted country, and felt proud- and perhaps comfort- that they could feel Canadian yet still be a proud Iranian, Afghani or Ghanan. The bus was a place where pride of the “back home”, sang with honour for their new home in beautiful harmony.
We had been invited to experience Ottawa in a very intimate, interactive kind of way. Lunch at the Parliamentary restaurant with the Hon Jim Karygiannis who, with the Liberal Party, were our gracious hosts and encouraged the group to ”see first-hand what we are voting for”.
A question period at the House of Commons followed, where I shared close seating arrangements with Moorthy, my newly minted Sri Lankan friend. We dialogued about our common experiences, feelings of forced migration and large Diasporan numbers for both our countries. As we were plugged in to our voice amplifier headphones, he gave me a friendly alert nudge as they announced the new NDP leader: “Thomas his name, Thomas Mulcair”. The name had eluded us earlier and we shared an affable look as Mr Mulcair was applauded.
A round table discussion with the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Honourable Bob Rae capped our day off, as each community representative had a chance to voice their community’s unique set of concerns. I could not stay apathetic throughout these impassioned discussions, as the Greeks pondered their economic situation and how to get their university-trained to Canadian job markets while the Sri Lankans troubled over the rights and safety of their journalists. Iranians spoke about the nuclear power issue as our community once again contemplated the sticky relationship between Canada and Turkey.
Soon it was photo op time. We all milled around, ready to have our photo snapped with Rae. The Armenian representatives giving off a sense of comfort and familiarity with all this political glad-handling while the newer established community leaders didn’t hold back on their excitement and near giddiness at this act of being immortalized. Somewhere, on the wall of some Kurdish community centre somewhere- I too am immortalized.