Yazdanian’s Loopholes

  • Showey Yazdanian
    Loopholes. Quattro Books (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Saghar Najafi

Showey Yazdanian, a lawyer, has utilized her familiarity with the legal system to write fiction with a touch of humour about a loophole in the Canadian law of immigration and citizenship. Yazdanian’s Loopholes follows a group of lawyers helping a Cuban family to immigrate to Canada. After failing to do so through the loophole they found in the immigration system, the lawyers stick to “a simple case of marriage fraud” by involving themselves in marriages with the members of the Cuban family, who are represented as random customers and mere strangers; as a result of the fraud, the lawyers have their permits suspended for the rest of their lives.

The story takes place partly in Toronto and partly in Havana. The team of delegates includes an ambitious lawyer named Octavian Castro, an astute lawyer named Ferdinand Magellan, usually referred to as Mags, and the protagonist, an untalented lawyer named Walter Roger. The loophole, originally discovered by Mags, concerned the eligibility of “anyone born on a Canadian military ship for Canadian citizenship.” Castro, Roger, and Magellan travel to Havana in order to finalize their plans to circumvent the Canadian legal system. They plan for Stella, a Cuban citizen, to give birth to her child on a ship, which would be considered Canadian as long as Magellan, who had served in the Canadian Naval Army, was on it. The plan’s progress becomes hampered by the embassy, and so Magellan and Castro devised a new plan where Stella would temporarily divorce her husband Ramon so that the Cubans could temporarily marry the lawyers. Stella and her child (falsely presented as Castro’s) ease their way to Toronto, and Ramon’s fake same-sex marriage to Roger paves his way to Canadian citizenship—the reader is forced to wonder how the embassy overlooks evidence that would contest the truth of such claims. After a year, Ramon and Stella divorce their partners and reunite. The end result is that the Cuban family gains Canadian citizenship, while the lawyers are suspended from practicing law in Canada indefinitely.

Loopholes evokes the struggle of a family attempting to escape the communist economic system of Cuba and fighting to live in a capitalist society such as Canada. Although the novel makes no overt claims in support of capitalism, its focus on the harsh living conditions and limited stipends of families in Cuba does so implicitly. Yet Loopholes also raises numerous questions about capitalist Canada as a country wherein immigrants hope to belong. For example, Ramon, who is an engineer, finds work at the Bank of Montreal as a security guard in order to make ends meet, leaving readers to question whether or not he finds the opportunities he deserves after immigration. Moreover, Ramon is also subject to homophobia within the Cuban community in Toronto, who make him a “laughing stock” based on their perception of his sexuality resulting from the sham marriage to Walter that enabled his Canadian citizenship. Such difficulties faced by immigrants are highlighted throughout the novel and cast a shadow over the utopian dream of Canada. Despite the lawyers’ success in navigating legal loopholes, the difficulties of Ramon’s life ultimately raise the question of whether or not coming to Canada and becoming a Canadian citizen have been worth the trials of immigration.

This review “Yazdanian’s Loopholes” originally appeared in Emerging Scholars 2. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 228-229 (Spring/Summer 2016): 266-267.

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