Amir Bajehkian: A newcomer's letter to our next representatives

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      By Amir Bajehkian

      Dear Politician,

      In just a few days, we are going to vote on how we want our country to be governed. Minority, majority, coalitions, left, right, or centre, and so on.

      And of course, in a country like Canada, parties have various ways to reach out to "immigrants", or, to be more specific, first-generation Canadians.

      You come to our cultural celebrations, savour our foods, and try to lure us with your pledge to diversity, and sweet talk us into voting for you.

      And I’m loving it. I can’t think of any other country where newcomers like myself matter more. Even the People's Party of Canada's problem is not "diversity" itself. (Their candidates just don’t like "too much" of it.)

      I’m proud to be Canadian, and I want to be included in your vision for this country! MY country!

      And that’s why I’m not going to settle for less. If you want my vote, you must earn it.

      It is great to see you jumping over fire with us on the last day before Nowruz. I love it that you enjoy my food, and dance with us.

      But I do not want your outreach to us to end there.

      I am not shallow or any less smart than "mainstream" Canadians (whoever they might be). I can never accept your standards for outreach to my community to be lower than your general outreach (sadly that’s not even a high bar).

      You MUST respect my intelligence. No, my questions to you will not be limited to immigration and foreign relations with my country of birth.

      No! I’m not gonna only ask you softball questions.

      No! Your accountability to me cannot be less than to other non-immigrant constituents.

      No! You cannot bring me a half-translated leaflet with grammatical and spelling errors and expect me not to care.

      While I appreciate your effort to have a diverse team, I cannot accept tokenism as real inclusion. Simply put, just having "brown" candidates is not enough if they are only for show, and to defend your diversity credentials, as opposed to having meaningful influence on your platform.

      Diversity of candidates is not enough if you view them, and their communities as disposable, just because you are "better than the other party".

      Also, we are not a voting bloc. Just like Canada, we have various opinions about everything.

      Sure enough, you sometime manage to piss off a large chunk of our community. But it doesn’t necessarily work the other way, and you cannot own our vote.

      Additionally, outreach means doing more than just going to self-described gatekeepers. You need to have a meaningful connection with different layers of our community.

      Do white people have gatekeepers?

      All in all, we are not that different. Yes! It takes time for us to learn the ins and outs of politics in Canada. But, at the end of the day, show us you genuinely care about our participation. And we would love to be your allies in making this country a better place for all.

      I am a Canadian! And I want to be a partner. I am not a guest.

      I want to be part of the solutions to the challenges ahead of us as a whole. Be it in finding the way forward for the environment and economy, or how to improve our health care.

      I am watching your actions, your votes in Parliament, and boy I will hold your feet to the fire. Don’t just assume that just because I only became a citizen a few years ago, you can run away when I want answers. (Sadly, it is a thing when it comes to political interactions with immigrants). I’m not your political afterthought.

      We as Canadians are all in it together. Yes! I came from a land far far away, with a different background and political experience. And I want to put that experience into making this new home of mine, a better, more prosperous, more just country.

      Dear future parliamentarian, I wish you success. Whatever you do in your time in office will affect us newcomers, as much as others. And it is your obligation to respond to me and my people, just like any other constituent (if not more, because we have seen it all).

      I came from a land where I saw how things can go wrong if we take them for granted. And I am here to "stand on guard for thee."

      Yours truly,

      A concerned citizen*

      *in the memory of my comrade, the late Alireza Ahmadian. That was how he used to introduce himself to politicians. His vision will always be missed.

      Amir Bajehkian is an Iranian-Canadian activist based in Vancouver. He is passionate about engaging new Canadians in community and political affairs. He is a regular contributor to Persian-language media in Vancouver.