Updated: Apr 13, 2021
It's difficult to write an introduction for one of the worst experiences of my life, it's as if someone asked me to describe some type of abuse or a physical beating. I believe it'd be best if we jump right in on it as if ripping a band-aid off, best not to delay this any longer.
A Naive Beginning
In 2013, I planned to move to Canada, Quebec City specifically, I was going to start a French language course to integrate easier to the province, the goal was to start a new life. At the time I had to go through the process of a special permit no longer available to Mexican citizens, a Working Holiday Visa, to acquire said visa I needed to enroll into a French language school, pay the proper fees and send my acceptation letter to the Canadian embassy. Then it was a matter of waiting a couple of months for the visa to arrive, then I could fly to Quebec, it's important to mention that at the time Mexicans were required to have a Visitor Visa to enter Canada, one I already had. The school I chose to enroll in told me I didn't need the Working Holiday Visa to enter Quebec simply arrive with my Vistor Visa and wait for the Working Holiday Visa to arrive once inside already. Having heard this I took the first plane I could to Canada and arrived at the Quebec-Ville Airport.
This is where my nightmare and love-hate relationship with Canada began. Before I can continue I would like to explain the differences between the Vistor Visa, Study Permit and Working Holiday Visa, this will become important, bear with me:
Visitor Visa - Also known as a V1 Visa or Tourist Visa, it's a Visa that Canada requires of certain countries to enter its territory legally for a period no longer than six months. Mexico used to be one of the countries required to have one, but then we made a deal with them where they're allowed to mine our land and pay no taxes in exchange for free borders. Honestly, we got the short end there.
Study Permit - Also known as a S1 Visa, you require this permit if you're going to study anything from high school to a doctorate. It allows you to stay the length of your studies and have a part-time job that means no more than 20 hours a week. The study of languages, French and English, doesn't allow you to process a Study Permit.
Working Holiday Visa - This one is a bit trickier. You were allowed to study for six months and then work another six months for a total length of a full year. The study of a language was a base to get one of this, in fact it was properly popular as a gap year in Mexico, but for reasons unknown to me it's no longer a possibility.
An Unwelcome Welcome
Back to the story, after we landed I walked with my backpack straight to the customs office where I was asked the normal protocol questions, I showed them my V1 visa and explained the purpose of my trip. The lady in customs, I vividly remember she was Asian, told me to follow her to a room and told me to sit down, I obliged. "Where is your study visa?" she asked me, I was quite surprised and explained to her I wasn't going to study anything but French, that the school explained to me I didn't need a study visa for that. "No! You need a Study Permit if you're going to study!" she yelled, I got pretty afraid at that point and tried to explain myself the best I could, this lady hardly spoke English, and we kept arguing to the point where she started yelling at me in French, I didn't speak any at the time.
She proceeded to take all my documents, my backpack and decided to treat me like a criminal "You tried to enter the territory illegally!" she yelled, this I got unbelievably scared. I tried to defend myself from the accusation, but she just answered with more French, yelling at me frustrated that I didn't understand it, until another customs officer came. I remember his name well, Daniel. Like in a film, the good cop bad cop routine started with Daniel trying to explain in English what was happening and the other woman being horrid.
After three hours of questioning and yelling they took my passport and gave me a document called an "Allowed to Leave" which can at best be described as a "discount deportation". Their original plan was to put me on a plane back to Mexico at once but the Quebec-Ville airport didn't allow for this as there aren't many flights generally. I was allowed to leave the airport and go sleep at my uncle's house since, and I quote, "We don't have detention facilities for people like you". Before being returned to my country I was treated as a nasty criminal for crime I will later know I didn't even commit.
The next day when I arrived at the airport to do the check in I was escorted by three customs officers, rather exaggerated if you ask me, and then grabbed and taken through the whole process one goes through to enter a plane. I would like to point out that when I say grabbed I do mean grabbed, from both arms as if I had committed some sort of homicide or manslaughter. On my way back I couldn't shake off the feeling that I was indeed a criminal, I felt a guilt that made the six-hour flight back a living hell. One of the reasons I came to Canada was to start a new, to get the opportunity to right my wrongs, yet when I got there they welcomed me with intolerance and apathy. Defenseless against a language I didn't comprehend and a law I wasn't acquainted with. It cemented in me the belief that no matter where I moved I would always be rotten.
Returning a Failure
At my arrival I wrote rather enraged letters both to the school and the VAC's offices asking for a proper explanation on this mess and three weeks later I got an answer. They both concluded that the Asian customs officer lady, believed I wasn't in Canada to study French but rather to study legally, a baseless conclusion since I had provided her with the payment receipts and my acceptation letter. Nothing more than a "bureaucratic misunderstanding" or at least those were the words used to describe my appalling experience. In reality, bad reading comprehension ended in an incorrect judgment, there's no way around it.
Nonetheless, some months later I got my Working Holiday visa and flew right back, I saw Daniel still in customs but not the Asian lady. This doesn't have a happy ending I'm afraid, apart from the wasted money, time and effort in the first flight, ever since that day it has been tremendously complicated to travel, because of a brainless mistake. Every time I get asked "have you ever been denied entry to any country?" on any form to get a visa I have to explain and re-live this incident. To this day I have to travel with the "Allowed to Leave" document on me.
Life goes on but Letting go is Hard
The error of another marked me for life. It's been difficult to overcome my prejudice towards Quebec and Canada, more so since other negative experiences ensued soon after, I still describe my bond to this land as love-hate. Be that as it may I still live in Quebec, I still hope I will be able to complete my projects here. To the Asian customs officer lady, sadly you made a poor impression on me the only thing I remember of you is your ethnicity. I don't wish evil on you, on the contrary, I hope you're showered with love, I hope you do your job with more care to avoid these mishaps in the future, I have no quarrel with you. May you find peace.
Je vais vous le répéter en français. À la douanière asiatique, malheureusement vous m'avez fait une mauvaise impression, la seule chose dont je me souviens de vous est votre appartenance ethnique. Je ne désire pas le mal sur vous, au contraire, j'espère que vous êtes comblé d'amour, j'espère que vous fassiez votre travail avec plus de soin pour éviter ces mésaventures à l'avenir, je n'ai pas de dispute avec vous. Puissiez-vous trouver la paix.