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article imageOp-Ed: France's Roma issue tinged with hypocrisy

By Michael Werbowski     Sep 16, 2010 in World
Ottawa - France is far from perfect when it comes to its treatment of the Roma minority. However, other governments have little right to lecture Paris on its handling of this issue. Some instead, wisely remain silent.
Politics and hypocrisy go together like French wine and cheese. The current international tiff over the European Roma is an excellent example of this. The Americans shamelessly berate the French, while in their fair land anti-Islam, anti -immigrant rhetoric, has hit a shrill and fevered pitched tone, not only on the far-right but the mainstream current of U.S politics as well. Conservative states like Arizona, have earlier this year enacted racist laws which specifically single out citizens of a darker hue i.e Latinos ( who are all assumed to be illegals). This type of legislation recalls the Nuremberg laws, enacted by Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
For its part, further north, Canada is playing it safe as always and remains silent on the Roma issue. Ottawa already considers itself a perfectly harmonious strife- free society; or a self- appointed model for the integration of immigrants and minorities. And of course, those Romas who have overstayed their welcome in Europe, are always welcome to come to Canada.
But there is a catch. Like the Mexicans, they need a visa to enjoy access to this egalitarian "multicultural paradise" . Since 2009, due to an unwieldy and constant influx of Roms from central Europe, Ottawa last year without any prior notification suddenly (July 2009) imposed visas on several central European states with large Roma populations. This measure was clearly meant to impede the flow of Roma refugees to this country. So the door was shut and the message to the caravan-living nomads was : you are no longer desirable over here. For the record, Ottawa slapped a visa on violence plagued Mexico as well, which remains in place and is unlikely to be repealed any time soon.
Cold , hard, Realpolitik seems to have interfered with the warm and fuzzy altruism or would-be compassion Canada wished to project abroad. For those huddled masses fleeing oppression and turmoil in their homeland, the welcome mat has been withdrawn , perhaps even permanently.
Double standards: Diplomacy and Domestic politics
For those who have no clue what I am taking about here's a quick backgrounder. Back in the late 1990s (1997 that is,) Roms from central Europe fled to Canada, as they claimed to be persecuted and discriminated against by the Czech state. Canada opened its doors as wide as it possibly could to welcome the bedraggled wanderers with open arms. Thousands of them flew into the country.This caused a diplomatic hick-up with Prague. The Czech government saw Ottawa as actually giving an official endorsement to the discrimination claims made by the Czech Roma refugees. But then too many Roma arrived. So Ottawa shut the door and slapped a visa on all Czechs ( including the Roms) coming to Canada. After being pressured by the EU to lift the visa restrictions on Czechs ( by then EU members) , Ottawa very reluctantly, lifted the bureaucratic barricade, but then as mentioned previously it re-imposed it again, when once again too many Roms arrived in Canada.
Maybe, the Roms are "second class citizens" in Europe, but then as the French have pointed out regarding the North American Indians; the indigenous peoples in the U.S and Canada were not only displaced but like the Roms during W.W II , were targeted with mass extermination during the colonization of the continent. So Washington has little moral authority to lecture the French and Ottawa is wise (considering its restrictive visa policies) to stay silent on this contentious issue.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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