Friday, July 19, 2024
Central Taxi drivers Mohammed Dahir and Mohammad Omar provide services to Niagara's Taxi medical program, which has provided a boon to drivers and enormous savings to the Region. Photo: Central Taxi
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Immigrants are right to wonder if hard work, initiative, investment will pay off in Canada

Canada was built by people who believed hard work should deliver rewards. Photo: Central Taxi

Rita Smith

Have hard work and home ownership become crimes in Canada?

You’ll have to forgive me if this is my net take-away from the Ottawa Taxi trial in the past week.

So far, we’ve seen one Taxi driver’s income tax return shared with the court and everyone else watching on Zoom. (Justice Marc Smith did instruct that it be taken down, after the plaintiff’s council objected.)

Two drivers have had photos of their homes put on display, along with information concerning the purchase price of the homes and mortgage status. On January 25th, in a move now referred to as “doxing,” legal counsel for the City of Ottawa announced the address of one driver’s home and confirmed that his daughter lived there.

Where I come from, telling someone you know where their children live is an implied threat; maybe that’s just me. But I am trying to imagine what the reaction would be if lawyers announce the home addresses of City of Ottawa staff when they begin testifying this week. Or the addresses of the Mayor and Councillors who are really the subject of this trial, in which claimants state that Ottawa failed to enforce its own Taxi by-laws when Uber arrived in 2014.

It is virtually a daily occurrence during this trial that lawyers for the City demonstrate their disdain for immigrant Taxi drivers in manner so obvious, it turns your stomach. On Day #1 there were not enough translators to staff a case that waited five years to be heard.

Co-complainant Ishkak Mail’s income tax return was displayed larger than life for all to see, in blatant disregard to privacy requirements. Lawyers interrupted him, talked over him, and switched topics while he was still answering.

Yeshita Dadi immigrated to Canada to escape the nightmare of war in Ethiopia. Ottawa’s lawyer displayed a photo of the home where his family lives.

“He worked 20 hours a day for years,” observed Marc Andre Way of Metro Taxi. “I was there, I know. He thought he had done a good job by providing for his family. He was completely deflated after his testimony, as it was made to seem he had done something wrong by working to buy a house.”

Yesterday, an accountant who fled civil war in Lebanon to drive Taxi in Ottawa was grilled to the point of verbal harassment. You could hear the change in Antoine El-Feghaly’s voice, the moment he stopped speaking proudly about his home ownership and his childrens’ educational achievements to first fall silent, and then to speak almost apologetically about his family’s accomplishments.

I immigrated to Canada in 1974, back when we appreciated hard work and fully expected personal initiative to be rewarded. We also, perhaps naively, thought all people were created equal and that Rule of Law applied to government as well as citizens.

I dedicated most of fall 2022 to watching daily video broadcasts of the Truckers’ Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC), and am now spending the new year covering full-day sessions of the Ottawa Taxi trial. Over all the hours of the POEC and this Ottawa Taxi trial, I have the eerie feeling that everything I ever believed and loved about Canada hangs in the balance, in these decisions:

Should we still expect to reap the rewards of our own hard work?

Does government have to obey its own laws?

Are we all created equal?