The dinner was planned for a week already, it was not to take place the day after another bloody killing. I was going to meet Muslim women.
D are Syrian, refugees.
I would have understood if they had canceled, but no. They were meeting – like every month – to discuss a project they are doing together, I had been invited to attend to see another reality.
Integration seen from the inside.
These five women arrived here about two years ago with their family, they left from further than zero, with the language to learn, the winter to tame. Most came from Aleppo, one of Raqqa, of which only ruins remain. Another lived in Hassaké, in the north-east of the country.
Jehan was an elementary school teacher.
Her husband was killed by a sniper.
She arrived here with her two children, almost 20 years old, a boy and a girl, who are studying in high school and CEGEP. His daughter, in addition to his maternal Arabic, not only learned French, but also English, Kurdish and Korean. “She wants to speak 10 languages …”
– She likes Korean pop music?
Her daughter is also a race champion, works at McDo after school as almost all the children of these women who are of working age.
They too, want to work.
Almost since their arrival here, they are part of a Syrian cooked food project that was available in some outlets in town, they do not provide. They have been accredited by MAPAQ, meet every Saturday to cook their dishes.
They are targeting the big market, which should open in June.
We put the dishes in the center of the table and we used, Syrian specialties, including the “gourgane” which has nothing to do with the gourgane we know, rather a delicious salad of tomatoes and parsley . There was a stew of beef and rice, Uncle Ben’s cooked in a traditional way.
I saw a nod to integration.
Their life is necessarily better here because it can not be worse than it was there, but it is not simple. They begin to fend for themselves in French, spend four days a week in a French class. On Saturdays, they cook for their project.
And there is the family.
Fatima has seven children, same thing for Hanan, and her youngest is not a year old. Fortunately, her husband stays home to take care of the kids and the cooking. She got her driving license, she’s the taxi driver.
Not the cliché of the veiled woman, say.
Hanan and Fatima do not understand why their children who go to high school – in a Sainte-Foy school – are left in a francization program while they speak the language. They do not make any other matter. “They do the same things all the time, my kids get bored. At school, they tell me it’s very good, that they have 100% francization, but they do not learn anything … ”
His 16-year-old son is landing.
The children of Hasna, they go to a secondary school in Charlesbourg. They are not confined to French, but integrated with other students in class. Not only do they master French without problems, they are also first class. “The teachers say they are among the best.”
They like school.
What they understood was that it depends on school boards. Hanan and Fatima are worried, they feel that the future closes on their children. They can not come to terms with the idea that they can not develop their full potential, that they be left behind.
And then, we will come to complain that they do not integrate, that they do not contribute.
The same thing is true for these women, who hope to be able to work full time as quickly as possible so that they do not depend on state aid. Already, if they could take French classes while working, or doing an internship, they would feel less stuck.
I had seen them on March 7, I had been invited to a fundraising evening for their project. They had cooked for the 200 or so people who came to encourage them, give them a helping hand. Hanan and Fatima had spoken, and their courage, to speak to us in their hesitant French.
Hanan explained that when his children see dust, they think it’s a bomb. She told us about her dearest dream. “I would like to have security and peace in my country.”
She wanted, more than anything, never to leave.