Over the last few days Canada has felt like it is a part of another universe, one that is far far away. I am reminded again how special a person’s rights to privacy or freedom to come and go as they please are. We tend to take these things for granted in the west. Since my return is still relatively recent I still figure I am due these privileges. But this past week has reminded me that they are just that, privileges. A different culture or a different country can not guarantee the same freedoms or way of life.
I have had to pull out my passport more in the last few days than ever in my life. Twice yesterday just to come on to my university campus, I was stopped at the front gate, by a man with a red arm band asking me to prove that I am a student of the school, or that I have a reason to be on campus. This has never happened in the four years I have lived here. But the man was serious, unless I could prove that I attended the school they were not going to allow me to return to my home.
Also the city has hired a whole new workforce to man the buses. Previously each bus just had a driver, now a second person has been hired to sit in the front seat and check everyone's bags as they get on the bus. We are all expected to stop at the top of the stairs and open up our purses, backpacks or shopping bags so that the man with the arm band can glance at what you are bringing on the bus. It is actually kind of funny since so many people use the bus system, the single person assigned the task of looking in bags on each bus doesn’t really have time to do a through search of everyone’s belongings. So they give a casual nod in your direction after you have undone the zipper or snaps. To top it off there are also desks set up at every bus stop with another attendant whose job it is to monitor who is getting on and off the bus.
Everywhere I go someone is watching.