Dec 22, 2012 – Nigerian Journalist Narrates Her Bitter Cold Experience In Montreal, Quebec, Canada
A Nigerian journalist by the name of Adetutu Folasade Koyi who works with Daily Sun recently visited Quebec, one of the coldest province in Canada unprepared. naijagists.com
Apparently, she wasn’t aware of the type of weather Canadians battle daily especially in winter time.
Hear Folasade as she narrates her bitter cold experience in Montreal, Quebec Canada below.
Nothing prepared journalists accredited to cover the 127th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for the tedious and exhaustive but illuminating journey to Quebec, Canada. For starters, getting to Quebec was a unique experience entirely. After a five-hour wait, which seemed like eternity, at Frankfurt Airport in Germany, the actual journey into Canada started from Montreal. On landing in Montreal, we were quickly ushered through immigration for the onward journey to Quebec. That was where the reality first hit. Getting down from the aircraft, we were greeted with a gust of wind so cold that the short trip between the lounge and the runway seemed like eternity; even though it was only just 10 yards or so.
Quickly, we were ushered into the friendly arms of two female staff of the Nigeria High Commission, Mrs. Bola Asaju and Binta. Thereafter, getting affordable accommodation proved to be another trouble for journalists with limited resources in such an expensive city as Quebec.Quebec, to any visitor, is not only an expensive city, its strict adherence to communicating majorly in French was a major setback for Anglophone visitors. Coming from an English background, it was more of a culture shock than anything. Settling down took another two and half hours. By this time, I was not only famished, I just felt like crashing in any flat surface. The cold, by this time, was really biting. Finally, we settled at the expensive Delta Hotel.
The next hurdle was where to eat, because by this time, hunger was really biting, fuelled mainly by the cold. Being a French city, choice of food was really limited. After getting directions from some of the staff who managed to understand what we wanted, we set out to look for the Chinese restaurant as recommended.That was another adventure on its own. Just as we approached the foyer of the hotel, I suddenly felt a gust of wind. Quickly, I asked my colleagues whether somebody thoughtlessly switched on the air-conditioner. Alas, my question threw my colleagues into fits of laughter. Mr. Taiwo Adisa (Tribune), Ehiedu Aniagwu (AIT), Husseini Bukar (NTA), and Onyedi Ojiabor (Nation) laughed to their hearts content only to remind me that the ‘air-condition’ I felt was just the automated hotel door opening! At this point, I knew trouble lurked because the winter jacket I thought I had on was proving to be grossly inadequate.
Stepping out of the warm ambience of the hotel, we were hit with the cold so hard everyone quickly tucked their hands into to whichever hole of clothing was readily available.The next step was how to get to the Chinese restaurant because we were certain that once we got there, we would at least get a semblance of food that would be nearer Nigerian cuisine; rice and beef, that is. Alas, it was wishful thinking. The street was deserted and it was frighteningly cold! We were just a few meters from the hotel door when we came across a Canadian. Politely, we approached him and asked for directions to the said Chinese restaurant. For the first time in my adult life, I saw a grown man struggle to bring out words trapped in his vocal cavity. He only spoke French and not even smattering English. Again, he knew where we were headed but could not just summon any known English word to give us the direction. He offered his profuse apologies and was soon on his way. Looking up and down the street cum road, we quickly agreed among ourselves that eve. If we didn’t know where we were going to, we could still see where we were coming from.Wisely, we turned back, less than 20 meters from the hotel. Our decision was also influenced largely by the biting cold which by now defied even the thick winter jackets we had on.
Safely cocooned in the hotel, we headed for the restaurant where we were, once again, confronted with the language barrier. The menu was in French, again! What to do? We tried every word we knew to tell the waitress what we wanted; just rice and fish/beef. The woman was nonplussed. To break the language barrier, as it were, she summoned the chef from the kitchen who proceeded to reel out the various hues of rice available. In the end, we settled for the universal white rice.The rest of the dinner went in a haze. The following day was the opening ceremony but before then, it was an uphill task to accomplish the simplest of tasks in a foreign country; change some dollars into the local currency for local runs and buy sim card to call loved ones at home.
By this time, I had not spoken to my family for 48 hours!With the language barrier, Mrs. Joy Osiagwu, the NTA correspondent resident in Canada offered to help us out but some big shots reportedly cornered the only available vehicle that could ferry us out of the Hilton Hotel where we were ensconced. Much later in the afternoon, we were able to procure some sim cards at a big departmental store but we faced yet another hurdle. The company which sold the sim card said it could not activate the sims unless we went to the network provider! This was a Sunday! Naturally, it meant we had to wait till the following day. For the first time, I allowed myself the little luxury of giving little credit to Nigerian GSM operators. You ask why? To activate our sims, we had to cough up 40 Canadian dollars each! I was aghast. The initial reaction was to protest at the rip-off but further enquiries, we discovered it was the standard practice. We grudgingly paid only to discover further that for every call received from Nigeria, we also pay! I was only able to stomach this for just a day. The following day, I simply threw away the sim and went back to using my Nigerian sim; expensive but I soon found a way out, text in response to phone calls. That was it.
As for food, I, as with some of my colleagues, decided that the best option was to rely solely on good, old reliable rice. Experimentation with food was just not on the menu. Canada would be the only country I have ever travelled to where I would eat only rice for more than seven days! Food was thus sorted out and the next day, the IPU commenced with plenary.The Parliament of Canada, we were told, has a long history of active participation in the work of the IPU. The country was selected to host the Assembly for the fourth time in the 120-year history of the IPU, and for the first time in more than 25 years.Canada is known for the vast diversity of its territory and above all, for the vast diversity of Canada society, and for its ability to allow all ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic and political components of society live in harmony.
Discussions at the IPU plenary centred on the role of parliaments, more than 150 participating countries, in addressing the challenges of citizenship, identity and linguistic and cultural diversity in a globalized world. Unlike in past years, Nigeria, this time round had a strong delegation led by the Chairman of the National Assembly and President of the Senate, Senator David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark.The theme of the IPU, coincided with some issues slated for amendment in the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly. Before the journey to the IPU, Mark had always harped on Nigeria moving forward and doing away with insistence on state of origin and embracing state of residency. In fact, some sub-themes of the IPU which touched on gender equality for female parliamentarians had long been resolved in the Nigerian Senate. It was, however, refreshing that global parliamentarians still thought it topical to bring such topic onto the front burner at the IPU.
But another vexatious issue occupied the minds of African parliamentarians at the IPU; it was the exclusion of some parliaments from the Assembly in Canada. Although the matter was discussed in hushed tones the day before, leader of the Ugandan parliament brought it to the fore when she formally protested the shabby treatment meted out to them and other African countries. She also protested the perceived teleguiding of opinion going on at the IPU. This prompted Nigeria’s Senate President and leader of the largest African parliament, Senator David Mark, to lead a delegation of African countries to formally protest exclusion of some member-nations from the IPU Assembly in Quebec.The Senate President specifically frowned at the breach of earlier agreement by the Canadian government on the issuance of visas to member-countries.
Some African countries, including Mali and Uganda and Syria, were not only denied visas but in some cases, the Canadian government blatantly refused to issue visas to some African parliamentarians. In some cases, some members were singled out for issuance of visas while the rest of the delegation were outrightly refused visas.This, the Senate President said, ran counter to an earlier agreement when Canada was granted the hosting rights over the United Kingdom. Speaking immediately after the first plenary session, the Senate President said that Canada was granted hosting rights over London with the understanding that all member countries would be treated fairly after the United Kingdom has said it would not issue visas to Zimbabwe parliamentarians.”Well, we were very disturbed about the exclusion of some of our members from the IPU.
You see, one of the reasons Canada won over London was on the understanding that all the IPU member countries would be issued visas to come but even within Nigeria and from Nigeria, we had a lot of delays in obtaining our visas. Syria, for instance, was not given visas, Uganda also complained that all their delegates were not issued visas.We had the same problem with Mali and that was why we got a delegate from Nigeria to work with the Malian delegation so that we can put their item on the agenda.So, I would say really that Canada has not done too well in the issuance of visas to IPU member nations…” said Mark.
He continued: “African delegates have in no small terms told the Canadian authorities that we are not comfortable the way they have treated our nationals. For instance, the Nigerian delegation was given only a single entry visa. We told them that it is unbecoming. If you are part of a comity of nations and you choose to host an international organization such as IPU, then of course, you must open up. And it is very important that you deal with every section by opening, you accommodate all delegates that may choose to come for the IPU.You cannot invite people and denigrate and embarrass them. We have made it very clear to the Canadian authorities.The Ugandan delegation spoke on behalf of African delegation. Our position was made very clear to them.That was why United Kingdom was not given the right to host the conference when they chose to because United Kingdom had indicated that they will not allow Zimbabwe to come in. So, if you have decided to host an international event like the IPU, you have to open your doors to everybody who is a member of the delegation.”
Earlier, in his address to the 127th Assembly of the IPU, the Senate President, who spoke on The parliament, linguistic and cultural diversity in a globalised world, had reminded the IPU that each nation has its own peculiarities but affirmed that Nigeria is on the path to addressing such diversities through an a further amendment of its Constitution. Senator Mark reiterated that the National Assembly would work to protect minority rights through an amendment of the country’s Constitution. He said: “Parliaments ratify international treaties, including those on human rights and the protection of the vulnerable and minority interests which their various countries are signatories to…Indeed, we must bear in mind that every nation has its own peculiarities and must manage its diversities within such local contexts while also drawing from international best practices and standards. As a matter of fact, let me assure you, Mr. President and distinguished delegates that the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not just in total support of raising the stakes in the management of diversities in a globalised world, we are already taking steps to ensure that every minority interest within the Nigerian state is well protected.We are working to remove all obstacles that hinder unity and harmonious coexistence. At the moment, efforts are on course at the National Assembly to further amend the 1999 Constitution…”
Speeches over, the Senate President took journalists out to lunch. He treated us to Chinese (Canada style) and the menu was so alien to me, I got to eat beef soaked in what I could only interpret as sugar! Predictably, rice came to the rescue. A world-class traveller that he is, the Senate President was really at home with the menu but I discovered that big men really do not eat big. Senator David Mark was no exception. Although the Assembly held in Europe, parliamentarians knew that there was no way they could ignore events going on in Mali, Syria and other countries in similar situation. In fact, in addition to the communique, the Assembly took time to issue a special resolution on Mali.
The IPU not only endorsed military action by France, European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN) to quell terrorist activities in Mali, they also backed foreign intervention to help the country’s central government recover parts of the country already seized by terrorists.This was the resolution of 1,400 parliamentarians drawn from 125 countries including Nigeria. International parliamentarians unanimously endorsed what is now known as the Quebec City Declaration and also urged Mali’s armed forces to fully cooperate with foreign military whenever they are deployed.
A part of the communique reads: “Condemning the serious human rights abuses by armed rebel groups in northern Mali, IPU is today backing international military efforts to regain control of the area. In an emergency resolution being adopted at the closing session of the 127th IPU Assembly in Quebec City, IPU members strongly condemned the killings, abuses and violations against civilians, in particular women and children.These and the wanton pillaging and destruction of Mali’s cultural and religious world heritage sites have led IPU members to welcome both the French, European Union and United Nations commitments to help Mali retake the large swathes of territory occupied by armed and terrorist groups”.
Thereafter, it was time to come back home. I was too happy to bid farewell to a city whose weather was not only unfriendly, but also the tax regime made the short visit not one I’m eager to repeat. No fond memories, really.
Surely there is no place like home.
[Article by Folasade Koyi, DailySun Reporter. Source]