Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Canada is a country that has always been dependent on the arrival of immigrants to swell her population base. The country has devolved from acceptance of its original settlers of Anglo-Norman stock arriving from Europe to settle the vast forested lands, joining the aboriginal populations living as best they could in their traditional ways of hunting and gathering, to eventually be edged out as those feeling themselves of a superior race always managed to do anywhere in the world.

More latterly Canada is a land populated continuously by immigrants from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere for whom the restrictions that were formerly placed on entrance to any but those of European stock were lifted with the 20th-Century recognition that racist, discriminatory attitudes were not reflective of the type of liberal-democratic nation Canada aspired to be.

Rejection of equality was the order of the day before that, for aboriginals, for Asians, for Jews and blacks, among other visible minorities.

The far newer Canadian immigration system celebrates diversity, and has become colour-blind, culture-blind and religion-oblivious; all are welcomed as long as they meet the criteria for entry as immigrants aspiring to landed immigrant status and finally citizenship and full integration, though the latter is not a requirement while the former represents the legal status required for full and permanent residence in the country.

Canada celebrates the diversity of the many cultures, languages, heritage, religions that go into the multitudinous makeup of the entire country. It is a pluralist society which congratulates itself for its civility and acceptance of others. Each individual who arrives in the country with the prospect of succeeding at finding their aspirational life-goal is a gift to Canada. Families resulting in children becoming new Canadians all contribute to the social wealth and unity of the country.

A now-52-year-old man from Yemen appeared fairly typical, migrating from his country of origin to the nation's capital in 1987 for the purpose of studying computer science. As many such mature students do, on achieving their academic credentials, the man, who remains unnamed, succeeded in making a new life for himself in Canada. He found good, steady employment, married, settled into the comfort of normal life in a new land.

Of that union there were five children, four boys and one girl. The man, advanced in computer science, was earning a very comfortable salary, gaining traction in his field, and bringing home $90,000 in annual pay. He was a careful saver, and was able to purchase a townhouse with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, paying cash, eschewing the weight of a mortgage. And he was very averse to the costs of what most others would consider necessities of life.

He was recently convicted in a criminal harassment and assault case, unusual in its details, for it is his wife and his five children who have charged him, brought him to court to stand trial, and stood by as Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland heard testimony and found the man guilty of all charges brought against him. His wife of 24 years and his children ranging in age from 12 to 22 abhorred their life with the man and made it abundantly clear why they did.
"I am satisfied that Mrs. H. was forced to endure a thoroughly lonely and deprived existence for many years leading to the separation. She suffered deprivation in the basic amenities of life like heat and showers, spousal inequality, disrespect and minor physical and significant emotional abuse.
"She endured the heartache of seeing her children being subjected to the accused's unfortunate and controlling parenting and his discipline methods of the children, which were abusive and unlawful."
Justice Charles Hackland

The man's daughter testified hers was a "lonely existence" at high school, unable to spend money beyond basic needs, isolating her from the friendship of others her age. The four boys slept in one bedroom of the townhouse he had paid $210,000 cash for, while the daughter had her own room, and the man and his wife shared the master bedroom, he sleeping on a mat on the floor. They had no vehicle, considered extraneous to their needs.

The house was located in a suburb of the city, and the man rode a bicycle to his workplace, while another bicycle was used by the wife, a condition that made it essential she shop daily for the family of seven, hauling home what she could in bags on her bicycle. The children complained of being hungry often, particularly after their father undertook to do the food shopping on his own, cutting $1,000 from the monthly food bill as he did so.

No one was permitted to watch television, the set kept in the master bedroom, if someone in the family was being disciplined. And even then, permitted to view only those programs he deemed suitable. Bedtime for all, regardless of age, was directly following dinner and lights went out. Discipline ranged from beatings, to whippings to being entirely ignored and everyone forced not to engage with the one being punished. The children would be whipped with their father's leather belt for not obeying what he spoke of as "sensible practices".

The children became accustomed to sneaking showers when their father was not at home. The man would only permit each child to use two litres of water, measured by a receptacle in the shower; one litre for washing, the next for rinsing. Light bulbs were replaced with 40-watt bulbs to ensure the hydro bill didn't soar. And he was extremely frugal with heat; over time the family simply ceased asking permission for the heat to be turned up.

"We froze in the dark", said his wife as her husband would tell them all to layer their clothing according to the challenges of the prevailing cold temperatures, outside and within their dwelling alike. The two older sons were permitted part-time employment, but their earnings were to be handed over to their father.

A guilty verdict was handed down by the presiding judge on January 16, with the judge stating that the wife had endured a marriage and life equating with being a longtime victim of criminal harassment. The children as well were considered to be victims of harassment and assault. During his judgement Justice Hackland commended the wife for her "eloquent" descriptions of her emotional state.
"It was hell and we had to get out."
"Hopeless ... you give up."
"I used to wait for spring ... just surviving ... sad and hopeless."

He is set to be sentenced at the end of the month.

As a closing thought, to be perfectly fair, the entire situation was likely to be reflective of what many families once endured in 19th-Century (and prior) and early 20th-Century Europe in fundamentally patriarchal societies, with the pater familias controlling every aspect of the family's life, in line with he father's particular values and priorities.

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