A Trinidad based man I met on a visit to the old country went into ambush mode when he heard that I was living in Canada. He let me have it with both barrels loaded for bear and tried to get a ko with the gun butt too.
“You people who run away from Trinidad are catching your ass in Canada and dying to come back home, But, you too shame to say you failed in Canada. You think we don’t know you still living in dark basements in Toronto Housing Authority slum buildings, freezing your tail waiting at the bus stop to go to your minimum wage factory jobs?”
The man just pulsated with contempt for us who had “run away” from sweet Trinidad and superior pride in those who had stayed to make Trinidad a better place. He ranted on me big time and wouldn’t listen to a word from me, because he knew everything about us Trini Canadians. He had been to Canada and seen it all and knew our shame.
That’s not an uncommon view about Trini Canadians and the problem about it is that it’s way outdated and obsolete. In the seventies of the last century, and that is almost 50 years ago, many Trinis in Canada were struggling with poorly paid factory type jobs, poor quality rented apartments, freezing Canadian weather and immigration issues with their papers.
Things have changed dramatically for Trini Canadians in the last few decades and we are nothing like the bad old seventies.
For a start most of the Trinis here in Canada are residents or citizens, meaning we came here legally as immigrants on the invitation of the Canadian government. We are not refugees, visa overstays, or desperate boll weevils looking for a home who sneaked into this country.
There were some people who came up in 1988 as refugees, 14,000 according to my immigration consultant friend, and most of them have had their immigration issues resolved or they have gone back to Trinidad. In any event, that’s a very small part of the 150,000 plus Trinis and descendants in the country now. My point is that we don’t have large numbers of Trinis who are undocumented illegals hiding out from immigration as happens in the United States. We are not squatters trying to steal a place in another man’s country but Canadian citizens and residents living in our own.
Next, here in Toronto where most of the Trinis live and where I have done my research, the vast majority own their own houses or apartments and few live in rented accommodation. Most have houses, and you should know that houses in Toronto are valued between three quarters of a million dollars and one million Canadian dollars. That’s $4.5 to $6 million TT dollars. My house is one the lower end of that scale, poor me.
The net worth of a family that owns one of those houses is between $1 million and $1.5 million Canadian or $6 million to $9 million TT. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, those who like to look down on us in true Trini style. One of the top real estate agents in Toronto Jay Brijpaul has told me that 95% of the Indo Caribbeans in Toronto own their homes. I presume it may be similar for other Caribbean people.
Now as to income and jobs, a long time has passed since the seventies when most of us here did in fact work at factory jobs, minimum wage, ketch-ass jobs with little pay and benefits. Now most of the Indo Trinis and Indo Guyanese too have upgraded their education and job skills and are making decent incomes at or above the average for Canadian families of around $58,000 Canadian per year.
Very few Indo Caribbeans are on welfare or living below the poverty line. Many of our people here in Toronto are retired with good pensions and allowances, living the good life and travelling the world. Check out their Facebook pages for the pictures. Our children are doing well generally in the schools and universities and in the job market.
Long story short, the Indo Trinis and other Indo Caribbeans here in Toronto and Canada generally have done quite well (I can’t speak for the other Caribbean people here). When I ask them if they have gotten what they came for in Canada, they answer yes they have and more than they expected too.
There is no appetite to return to Trinidad among the elders and the children born here or who grew up here see Canada as their home and would not dream of going to Trinidad to live. It’s not that we are ashamed to return to Trinidad in disgrace or we have become the equivalent of fresh water Yankees. If you have found something better, why would you want to return to the old ball and chain you have escaped? Besides, the statistics show that less than 10% of those who have migrated to another country return after several years in the new land.
I know it’s not fair to compare a huge, developed first world country like Canada with a tiny, third world nation like Trinidad and Tobago, (which is smaller than Great Bear Lake or Algonquin Park in Ontario), but some Trinis insist on doing it.
In reality, Trinidad has only one mark above Canada. It’s warm all year, while Canada has warm weather for only 5 months of the year.
But if we want sun, sea and sand in the other seven months we can drive or fly down to Florida or Texas, cruise or fly to Cuba, Bahamas, Mexico or any other desirable part of the world that is way safer and more comfortable to visit than Trinidad.
Trinidad sucks big time these days. And Canada?
Sure we have our problems and it’s not perfect. But Canada is only one of the top ten best places in the world to live, one with the best quality of life to be found, one of the safest, let’s leave it there, no point rubbing it in that we the citizens and residents own a world treasure of a nation. We Trinis would be mad to leave this place.