It was a hot summer day of July 2012 as I climbed in a bus along with my husband from a bus stop which was just across the place where we were living. It has been just a few days since we immigrated to Canada and were renting a place in a quiet crescent of Regina. Everything was so new around us. As usual, we were on our way to find a direction for us in this whole new world.
Our landlord has told us about a place near downtown in Regina where newcomers go to get welcome orientations which intend to help in integrating and start working with the society. This organization also provides job-related orientations and facilities, for example, computers and printers to prepare the resumes, councilors to guide and explain procedures to pursue a particular profession, education or to pursue any kind of licensing required by licensed professions.
We got off the bus and walked towards the building with our all official documents in a bag. As we were entering the building, we noticed that people were holding the doors for others in courtesy. We were amazed to see this and thought people of Canada were very nice.
Dumbfounded and completely vulnerable we proceeded to the front desk. There was no sign or any sort of indication which could tell us where to stand for our turn in the queue. We stood about 5 feet away from the front desk where a white receptionist was already helping someone. In the meantime, a white guy came in and stood about 2 feet away from us. After about 5 mins the receptionist was ready to take the next client in the queue. But we were astonished to see that she called the white guy first and asked him with a smiley face how could she help him. She ignored us entirely as if we were not even there although she had noticed that we were first to be helped. We didn’t take her action as racist thinking that she may not have noticed that we were next in the queue. It took her another 10 minutes to help that gentleman. Our eyes could not believe that she again ignored us and went back to her chair. We remained standing there waiting for her attention. Then we encouraged ourselves to go to the desk after waiting for another couple of minutes.
I tried to get her attention by saying “excuse me” and she gave us a strange look as if she was doing something very important and we disturbed her. Anyhow, she had to come to the desk as to our understanding that was her job there. My husband told her that we were new immigrants and we needed to see a counselor to get guidance for the job hunt and the license he needed to pursue to work as a pharmacist. He had to repeat this thrice as we thought she was not getting our accent and kept saying “pardon me”. Then I tried to say the same thing keeping in mind may be my accent would be better for her to understand and she made me say it twice at least. We thanked God that finally, she understood our purpose of visit. Instead of explaining us nicely she rudely replied that there are no councilors here for newcomers and told us to go to Regina Open Door Society (RODS).
We took a bus and went to Regina Open Door Society and explained our purpose of visit. We were able to get an appointment with a counselor and when we saw the address of the counselor, we looked at each other with a shock that why would that white lady/receptionist lie to us? She could have told us that we were required an appointment to see a counselor, instead, she told us councilors only work at RODS.
We went to the same place again on our scheduled day and, fortunately, we did not have to see the lady again (we were already praying not to see her). We had our first terrible racist experience there which we remember to date. Till today, whenever we pass through the building, everything comes to our minds that how badly we were treated there.
Our skin color did not work in our favor and we did not believe the Canadian myth that we are all friendly, helpful and accepting towards anyone. The reality is much different. Our responsibility, as an informed citizen, is to realize that everyone is equal and we should not discriminate people based on their skin color.