24 March 2007

Les immigrés

Before I left for France, my mother expressed concerns over the fact I was going to live in a country where some very dramatic and highly-publicised racial uprisings have taken place over the past few years. Thankfully, I have not experienced any racism first-hand, though to be honest, I never expected to either. Perhaps its the naive Canadian in me, who was brought up in a country where the rhetoric of race was on the whole, very positive. Discourse on racism in Canada centres around 'celebrating diversity' as opposed to our neighbour to the south, where assimilation seems to be the prefered approach. However, I am not arguing that Canada is nation free from racial prejudice - in fact, those close to me know that I find it to be profoundly racist in certain aspects. It's just that in Canada, racism takes a clandestine form.

Perhaps this is why I find what happened last week in the 19ieme arrondissement of Paris so shocking. On March 20, 2007, a grandfather performing the loving routine of collecting his grandchild from a local école primaire was brutually assaulted by the genderarmerie. Apparently, a promise made by the French ministère de l’intérieur, one Mr. Sarkozy (sound familiar?) that he would ensure arrests would not occur within 20 metres of 'sensitive settings' such as primary schools was empty. So, what was the crime worthy of physically assaulting a man of Chinese origin in front of shocked parents and children? Not holding a valid titre de sèjour, a permit required by the goverment to legally reside in France. This incident, while deplorable in its own right, is a symptom of a larger problem I'm witnessing with alarming frequency here in France. Xenophobia masquerarding under the guise of 'concerns for national security'. Thanks to a new law passed by Sarkozy himself, violent acts (read: police violence) are no longer permitted to be videotapped and broadcast over the internet. Contravention of this law can lead to a 5-year jail sentence. With Sarkozy as one of the top canadidates in the impending French election, I worry about that this may become the future of France...

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