I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot and see many parts of the world. Along with the fun side of sightseeing, food, and cultural exploration, I’m always interested in observing people in new environments.
It doesn’t take much travel to realize how lucky we are in Canada, regardless of the challenges we face from discrimination or prejudice, which are rare but certainly exists. This place isn’t utopia, but it’s close enough.
Canada stands out in the world with its democratic values (freedoms of thought, religion, speech, assembly, plus peace, equality, fairness, law and order, and multiculturalism).
Canada has a unique mix of European cultures, primarily British and French, with strong American influence and traces of rich indigenous heritage. Combine with international immigration and you have a global sampler within our country.
We come to Canada looking for a better life, safety, economic prosperity, and a home. We come from many places around the globe where we grew up within different cultures, speaking several languages, practising various religious beliefs, and bringing different experiences. We bring new perspectives.
We bring all of this but also we’re expected to respect the Canadian mosaic of cultures and come with an open mind and a desire to integrate in and contribute to our new communities.
I remember when I fell in love with Canada. I was here as an international student and first saw a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the core of the Canadian laws and, I would argue, Canadian values. I picked Canada as my new home and Canada has picked me.
I was fortunate to be welcomed by most, but some more than others. I saw who was sincere and who was just polite.
Hidden prejudice remains the biggest challenge. It’s silent. Sometimes it come across through actions, and other times through inaction. Frequently people sweep it under the rug: they ignore and deny.
As a newcomer, you may often hear about “being friendly, but not being friends.” It can confuse you if you are here long term; attitude towards you may change depending on the length of your stay.
I faced racism few times since I moved here. Every incident hurt me but in the big picture, they weren’t systematic enough to raise major concern. I don’t claim thick skin, but I’m realistic.
The incident that stands out the strongest happened the day after my Canadian citizenship ceremony. I was on top of the world with happiness, until an argument over a parking space at the Seaport Farmers’ Market. The man noticed my accent. “Get back to your country,” he said.
I responded: “This is my country.”
It hurt me and opened my eyes. But as I thought it about, I realized the incident wasn’t normal. The norm was that my entire office staff attending my citizenship ceremony and as excited as I was on the big day. The norm was the hundreds of congratulations I received from friends across Canada.
Prejudice exists, but you can’t let it get to you.
Newcomers: believe in your shared Canadian destiny and help shape our country. Be proud of who you are and where you are from, but also be proud of who you have become, a Canadian.