By Jeannette Tossounian
January 15, 2019
I have met many women facing deportation, mostly when I was incarcerated at Vanier Institute for Women in Milton Ontario where ladies from the GTA and surrounding regions are held for all sorts of reasons including immigration detention. They are mostly poor women from poor countries making the institution a starkly multi-cultural project.
To my perspective locked in jail, a place where stereotyping is blatant from every angle, there didn’t appear to be too many Asian women around compared to other recognizable races. When I did have a chance to talk with an Asian inmate, I found their stories similar to that I have heard from Asian women I met in the arts and business world outside of jail. Instead of coming to Canada poor and desperate like many immigrants, they usually come in as students or on work visa, financially stable with their well-to-do families waiting for them to come home after their worldly adventures.
Many Asian women make a good living in Canada, some stay, some go back, but from what I hear repeating in their stories is that many face the same issue of being fetishized by Canadian men for being Asian. They came to Canada full of hope and ambition and found themselves trapped in a situation where the fact that they are not a Canadian citizen makes them vulnerable to predators who sexually use them, often extort money out of them and then have them deported.
An excerpt from ‘The Human Kennel’ jail journals:
“AUG 19, 2013
Had a cellmate all weekend. A very traditional Chinese lady from a small town in China. She’s 30 years old and first came to Canada on a student visa and graduated with a business diploma. Of course she’s a very small and very pretty Asian girl… Instead of getting a job after her graduation and getting a work visa and working on her Canadian citizenship, some stupid man led her astray by telling her the only way she could stay in Canada is if she got married. So she paid several thousands of dollars to a Canadian guy to marry her and after he got what he wanted, he took off. Immigration came by her apartment and realized it was a fake marriage. She still wasn’t a Canadian citizen yet and so she was facing possible deportation. Then another man, who owns a business, came along and kept her. He could have hired her as an employee and got her a Canadian citizenship, but instead he kept her as his girlfriend the last couple of years. So now she’s in jail about to be deported back to China. She came to Canada to get an education and a career, but all she became was a toy for men and she’s barely aware how it all happened. It’s depressing.”
Women who come into Canada from poor counties arrive desperately and have little support left for them in their own countries. But in China, they are sending their bright young women to succeed in certain sectors in Canada and either establish themselves abroad or come back full of skills and knowledge. Instead, these women are being returned chewed up and spit out. So you think if daughters of rich Chinese families keep coming back to China from Canada raped and robbed, well, that might cause them to get upset; I know the Chinese lady in the journal excerpt above told me she was going to tell everyone back in China that Canada is the good place they think it is.