Friday, February 19, 2010

Our selectively impermeable borders

Our border follies continue. An American violence-promoting hatemonger is greeted with open arms--but a star Mexican chef and his assistant have just been turned away.

Readers may remember that Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, took it upon himself last July to keep Canada free of Roma fleeing Eastern Europe for their lives, and he threw in Mexican visitors for good measure.

Yesterday the Montreal High Lights winter festival, one of those grand celebrations of life for which Quebecers are well-known, began its run. Gastronomy, of course, is on the ticket: chefs from all over the world will be visiting for a day or two to demonstrate their prowess and offer their cuisine to the revellers.

Not, however, Enrique Olvera.*

Olvera is a world-class chef who operates the highly-rated Pujol restaurant in Mexico City. He was on the festival guest list, but Immigration denied him a visa. Officials told Olvera that there was a risk he would remain in Canada illegally after the festival, and that, in any case, he would have needed a work permit--something no other chef has ever been required to obtain.

The owner of the trendy Montreal restaurant Raza, who had been expecting to host Olvera, was "disappointed, sad, but most of all angry." Almost all of the places at his restaurant had been booked, preparations were well underway and airplane tickets purchased, before he learned of the decision. As for Chef Olvera, he says he won't try to visit Canada again. "Your people treated me like an outcast," he said.

Not "our people," Señor Olvera. Jason Kenney, his department
and his government do not speak for the majority of Canadians. Their values are not our values. Most of us, on learning this news, will feel deeply ashamed, as I do.

Give us a few months, OK? Once we have taken out the trash, I hope you will reconsider. For now, unfortunately, the apologies of ordinary Canadians for this insult must suffice.

[H/t En beau joual Vert]

UPDATE: (February 20) Marie-Claude Lortie of La Presse, who broke the story and to whose report I linked above, is annoyed with me for giving her insufficient credit for the details in my post. Be sure to visit her place for updates on this story. She has, at this point, spoken with MP Denis Coderre, who is now pressing the matter with Jason Kenney.

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