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Leah Christensen: Mandarin could do something different

An issue ‘not to be taken lightly’.

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Scrolling through Facebook a few days ago, a “sponsored post” caught my eye: Free buffet dinner at the Mandarin restaurant in Guelph for all Canadian citizens in celebration of Canada Day, and The Mandarin’s 40th birthday.

On the surface that sounded like a nice thing to do, but after a few minutes of thought I had to wonder. I was born in Canada, and still live in my hometown.

My husband is an American, and let me tell you, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have a dollar to spend. Being legally blind and physically challenged, many people don’t want to hire me.

I collected ODSP for a time, but when we got married they let me go, because they figured he could support both of us. For many, ODSP is barely enough to keep a decent roof over their heads. Thanks to frugal living, we do just fine on his Social Security and VA benefits.

Maybe the Canadian government needs to give free thank you meals to non-Canadians, who make it possible for them to stop financially supporting those of us whom employers don’t wish to hire, because they’re ignorant of just what “disabled” people can actually do!

For the cost of my American husband to eat there on Canada Day, he went to Zehrs and got us some absolutely awesome picnic food. We are going to spend the day on our balcony eating hot crab dip, fancy french cheese, baguettes, dates, and some smoked fish my mother caught just for us in Longlac.

I stopped at the LCBO and bought some Caesars. For dessert we will enjoy Tim Horton’s Coffee, and red and white Canada Day cupcakes. On Thursday July 4, we get to have another picnic, and the cupcakes will be red, white and blue. 

I think a better way for the Mandarin to celebrate Canada Day would be to give everyone 50 per cent off a buffet meal, so that on Canada’s Birthday they could honour everyone who helped make Canada great. No need to “make Canada great again,” because it’s always been great. 

Reading the comment section under the original post, those with my opinion were criticized by people who felt we whined about the Mandarin’s good intentions, and those who wanted to know what’s wrong with celebrating Canadian Citizens. Being a Canadian is in itself, a celebration, and it’s really not necessary to find new ways to wave our privileges in the face of those who don’t (yet) have those privileges.

What about the refugee family who is short of cash, for whom a free meal would make all the difference in the world? What about the permanent residents who make it possible for people like me to not have to depend on the government? What about the people who are due to become Canadians, but not till next week? 

My name is Leah Mary Allan Christensen.

What if I threw a birthday party, and charged everyone who was not named Allan, or Christensen? Would I be celebrating how proud I am of my family, or would I be being unfair to those who wish to celebrate with me? What about my married family, and step-family? I did not take my husband’s name, when we got married. They’re family too. eh? Good thing my sister kept her last name, and my mother hyphenated

We had a cash bar at my wedding because it worked well with our chosen venue, but it cost what it cost regardless of who you were. As the bride, I could be seen walking up to the bar and ordering a beer. 

One commenter under the Mandarin post commented “all aboard the Inclusion Train.”

This is not a participation ribbon. This is not a kids football game that no one’s allowed to win for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. If you want to Celebrate Canada, celebrate Canada, don’t treat people differently because of their citizenship. I recently attended an Iftaar dinner. I am not a Muslim, but I have many Muslim friends. They treated me like family! I knew it was a Muslim celebration, so I dressed modestly, did not exect alcohol, and looked forward to a Middle Eastern Buffet. I was not treated any differently because of my Christian faith. 

I was born in Canada, but my mother, who became a citizen in childhood, was born in Denmark. I prefer to call myself a Danish Canadian. In fact, danishcanadian is my screenname for almost everything I do on line. My American husband prefers living here because while the United States of America is a melting pot, we are a mosaic.

I lived in the United States during the 2008 election campaign, and the experience was a real eye-opener. The reason why I still love the USA is because I judge it by the people I encounter, and not by politics. 

When my American husband saw the ID requirement for the free meal at Mandarin his first thought was “that sounds like something the Republicans would come up with, in order to weed out immigrants, and ship them off to a concentration camp in Texas! Let’s take down names, compare them with the census, and see who doesn’t show up.”

Yes, that sounds far fetched for Guelph, but the way the world has been going, its just a matter of time before some evil genius with political power tries that, somewhere. While the promotion at the Mandarin is well intended and harmless, I’m glad we’re thinking about this now.

In Guelph, folks are showing their papers at a restaurant for an incentive, but in other parts of the world, people are showing their papers to avoid government checkpoints.

One’s citizenship papers are not to be taken lightly. 

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