Letter Twenty Four

Dear stranger, dear friend,

You have a right to be here. Remember that. It will often feel as if you do not have that right, or as if you are not welcome.

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

I want you to know that whatever behaviour you encountered at the border, it does not reflect the people who live here. Sometimes border agents are confused about their job. They think that they exist to strike fear into hearts, and to wield power, when in fact their first job should be to welcome and to listen. If you have not been treated well, then I am sorry that you had to experience this. But remember:

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

There are people here who want to welcome you, who are curious about who you are, and who are on your side. There are people here who want to hear your story. There are people here who think that societies are richer and kinder thanks to the presence of immigrants. It may take some time to find them, maybe even years, but you will find them, I promise.

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

There are pockets of resistance everywhere. They might seem hard to find. But please know that they exist. There are people everywhere fighting for a more just society.

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

And if you have not yet met people you can call friends, find friends in old trees, who have been alive so much longer than humans, and who are wiser than we will ever be. They will remind you:

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

One day, you will find something, a place maybe, or a person, and they will welcome you, and from there you will begin to build your own sense of home here. Please remember that this will happen one day. Please stay.

Welcome.

With kind wishes,

rajni.x.

(Rajni Shah, artist, Tiohtiá:ke / Montréal)

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