King George

I am a horrible human being.

Yes, you heard me. Horrible. Awful. Evil. Okay, well, the evil part is kind of fun sometimes, but I should be ashamed of myself. I’m not. Not really, but I should be.

See, I’m racist. I’m not. Not really, but I am. Do you understand? No? Neither do I, but I’ll try to explain.

As a writer I’m hyper-aware of racism, political correctness and neutral writing. If I want a job, I’ll Bobbitt my writing until it’s emasculated, wimpy and huddled in a corner. It’s gotten so bad that I can no longer use the term “he” when referring to a generic person. I have to use a clunky “he/she”, which sounds like some odd hermaphrodite or the neutral “they”. Writing for the Government of Alberta is so neutral and without any life or colour that by the time I’m done I want to hang myself. That’s okay. I simply drink heavily and don’t write for the Government of Alberta.

Proofreading, though, is a different beast and I will happily take the Government of Alberta’s money to do this. Proofreading, for me, is monkey work and is horribly simple. It’s like a game. Someone has put a document together and has put errors into the document. They can be anything from the wrong font to the wrong line size to a typo. They can also be anywhere. The result is the proofreader goes by letter by letter to find the errors so that you, the reader, has a document that looks nice. It’s tedious work and encourages heavy drinking but it pays the bills.

So it was that I found myself proofreading for my nemesis, the Government of Alberta. This is a little like Batman darning the Joker’s socks, but money is a big motivator. However, my problem wasn’t with the job itself, but with the office. This is where the racism comes out so I’m going to warn you in advance that the following will not be pretty.

I was born, raised and now live in Alberta. I most likely will die here and contribute who I am as a person to this province. I’m proud of this place I call home. We have every kind of ecological system from swamps to desert to tundra. We have every kind of individual from entrepreneurs to the insane to family people to, well, me. You can yell at stupid drivers cutting you off and have a stranger listen to your woes as you sit in a downtown park. We’re a friendly folk, we try to welcome everyone and welcome all views. I once lived on a street that allowed me to try goat for the first time. Not that I recommend goat, that is.

However, when I worked for the Government of Alberta, I noticed something disturbing. On the floor where I worked, there was perhaps 15 to 20 people. Of those, perhaps 5 were born and raised in Canada, let alone Alberta. The rest were immigrants. This is where things get problematic. Most of those people spoke English as a second language and had come to Alberta in recent years. Now I’m starting to feel horrible.

Don’t get me wrong. If someone’s qualified, they’re qualified. I want the best person doing the job that services me. Don’t care much beyond that. However, if you’re working for the Government of  Alberta, that means you’re running my province. My home. Shouldn’t the people operating the system that governs my home at least have lived here for no less than 10 years? If I want a student loan, I have to live in Alberta for at least 12 years. If I want a government job, though, I don’t even have to speak English or French as my first language. We are a bilingual country, so either is fine.

Forgive me here. Now is the time I tell the naked truth. If someone is working for my government and running my life, I want them to be like me. Yes, I want them to have been born and raised here. I’m even willing to give some leeway on this. At least have that person be an Alberta citizen for the last 10 years. Someone who knows and understands the culture and people.

Here’s the scary part; the people running the government day-to-day life are people who are not native Albertans. Is anyone else nervous? The people executing government policy and interpreting how that policy is implements on a day-to-day basis don’t understand Alberta culture or people. How can someone who doesn’t speak English fluently interpret documents written in English? Our language is rich with colour and words can have a variety of meanings depending on the context. Every writer knows this. Those policies are then applied to the citizens of Alberta by people who have lived here a handful of years. For example, last year I worked with a woman whose job it was to do research. She was Russian and didn’t speak English well enough for me to understand one sentence in three she was saying. Yet, she held the very important job of researching issues and telling her managers and, eventually, the Ministers, what was important and what wasn’t.

There are those who will say that diversity of cultures is what’s needed in our government. Okay. Let’s say I go along with that. I don’t, but I can pretend. In three floors of the building I worked in, I did not see a single First Nations, Metis or Inuit person. Alberta has a rich French and Ukrainian population. Not one that I noticed. All I noticed was a rich representation of immigrants who have not lived here long enough to truly understand the province they are working for.

All I want is for the Government of Alberta to recognize who they are truly representing. If their focus is the immigrants to Alberta, they’re  doing a wonderful job. However, as a citizen of Alberta, I don’t think it’s a lot to ask that the Government start making citizenship a mandatory requirement for employment. Beyond that I don’t give a damn about race, sexual orientation, religion or any of that other nonsense. All I want is the same criteria that is required for obtaining a student loan; must have lived in Alberta for the past 12 years.

So, there it is. My confession. I’m a horrible human being. When I made comments to people on this subject one friend noted that to think that the criteria for employment with the government needed changing was fine. To actually say it was racist. In our horribly correct times we’ve gone overboard. I cannot point out a fundamental wrong without being a horrible human being. Ironically, the people who demand that I be an Albertan citizen for at least 12 years to get a student loan probably haven’t lived here half that long themselves.

That keeps me awake at night.