Friday, September 06, 2002

A friend of mine is trying to become a permanent resident of Canada. He's semi-permanent already, essentially if not legally, and has lived in 4 provinces since arriving for grad school in 1995. He is currently on work permit, and trying to navigate the treacherous bureaucratic waters of immigration. He tells me his case would be a done deal if the Alberta Association of Architects would issue a letter of support. Alas, they will not, but have been convinced to offer a "letter of non-objection"..

Leaving aside obvious bureaucratic head-shaking, his situation struck me as an encapsulation of our modern-day Canada.

On some level, he is just encountering that greatest of canadian virtues, upon which our entire society, for better or worse, is founded: Tolerance. Rather than a hardship, his experience is potentially quite fortunate! Most of us native Canadians are firmly entrenched in middle-of-the-bell-curve-dom, not too smart, not too stupid, not too weird, not too gay, not too urban, not too rural, ... (Canada defines itself by what it's not, after all..), most of us never get to see Tolerance, being firmly in the realm of boring old Acceptance.

My nameless friend, on the other hand, is experiencing the joys of the fringe, where people find that they think you don't really fit, but we're too darn polite to say so, so we'll tolerate you and hope you don't bother us too much. This is rare stuff! No more than 5-10% of the population!

If the association comes through with a "Non-Objection" letter, he may even be perfectly placed for winning in our democratic system, where we don't vote FOR something, we vote AGAINST things. The Charlottetown accord (a 1992 referendum) comes immediately to mind; I recall friends say they agreed with most items, but because of one particular sticking point they'd vote against it - another camel felled by gnats. Our political history is full of people winning by being the second choice of enough people; more people did not object to them than to anyone else!

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