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Monday, March 26, 2007

On the train

The family and I were on the train when a young woman came on. Very friendly looking, well dressed, wearing a hijab. I am assuming she was Iranian (as an ethnicity, not citizenship). The reason? She was passing around pages to passengers that turned out to be a petition. It was directed at the PM. Most of the page was filled with "whereas" and "wherefores," and other legalese babblegab about Iran and how much we (Canada) needs to improve things. It took me a while to figure out what the petition was for. The very last line had it.

It was a petition to have an Iranian terrorist organization removed from Canada's list of terrorist organizations.

When I first started reading the bafflegab, I honestly couldn't tell one way or the other if the petition was in support or against something. One line could be taken one way, another differently. What removing this organization (the name of which I can't find now, and I've been looking at the GoC website, among other places) would do to meet the conditions mentioned previously, I can't figure out, other than perhaps placating Iran.

We didn't sign it, but I couldn't help but noticing how many people did - in particular the group of young Asian women who hadn't spoken a word of English the entire time we sat beside them. I'm hoping they could speak/read English, but for the (very short) length of time they looked at the pages before signing, I'm not so sure if they understood what they were signing - or if they simply skimmed and signed anyways. The legalese was difficult enough to plow through for someone who's first language is English. How much more difficult for someone for whom English is not their primary language?

For the record, English is the second language for my husband, and was not my primary language until I started school, so I'm not saying that English being a second or third language means that a person is less capable of understanding it - just that if your *primary* language is something else, misunderstandings are extremely easy. English is not a very logical language at the best of times. It's even less logical when couched in legalese terminology.

I couldn't help but wonder if any of the other passengers that signed actually understood what it was they were signing. Very few took the time to really read the petition. But they signed it anyways.

It makes me wonder just how valid petitions really are.

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