Culture and politics

On refugees: Quebec poet challenges xenophobia

Photo: Humanitarian Relief Fund

Fabien Cloutier is a celebrated Quebec poet, author, actor and director and winner of multiple awards, including a Governor-General’s Literary Award in 2015.

Recently, Cloutier put his talent to work challenging anti-refugee sentiment in Quebec, responding to the media coverage of migration from the Middle East. This poem, which proposes to peel away layers of apathy or even xenophobia, was originally published in French in September. With this week’s arrival of the first of thousands of Syrian refugees, it’s a good time to reflect on this scathing indictment of the casual racism inherent in our fear of refugees.

Ricochet is proud to present the poem here in English for the first time.

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This mornin’
I was listening to a call-in radio show
about whether we should accept Syrian refugees
or not
(what are you gonna do
when there’s always the same goddamn music playing on CBC radio
at some point you have to change stations)

and then
there was this man badly wanting to tell us
that these darned Arabs are dangerous
and that “we’d better watch out in case there’s terroris’s ’n djihadis’s in the mix”

Sir
refugees are fleeing from big fat terror
rapes
murders
True jesus-christ misery

Refugees walk hundreds of kilometres and it’s not in conditions like in Montréal’s marathon nope
there is no volunteer to throw ’em water bottles
wipe their foreheads with wet towels
and then bring ’em back to Ste-Julie in a Jeep Cherokee

They attempt to cross the sea on inflatable boats
like the lil ones we dump in our damn pools
they are brutalized
drowned
their children are killed

Y’know sir
being a refugee
that’s a shitload of trouble
’cause you don’t even get to use your Air Miles
and you gotta fit your house in a tiny backpack
while you already have a kid under each arm

and you sir
you’re afraid of them?
seems to me that if they’d been so happy over there
if they’d been so eager to see their wives ’n daughters
get a chance to end up as sex slaves
they’d just stay there
they wouldn’t bother to come here hopin’ for the exact same shit

As for me
sir
I do believe these people long to live in peace
and don’t go through all that trouble
only to come and toss a fuckin’ bomb
in a shopping mall in Brossard

This poem was translated for Ricochet by Marie-Claude Plourde, Certified Translator.

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