O Canada! How Do I Love Thee…

I can’t even count the ways. I thought I would make a list of top 5 reasons, or top 10 reasons, but how I feel about my country can’t be articulated in bulleted points.

I immigrated to Canada from Kenya in 1979 when I was less than a year old. This is my home, my home, my home. Over the course of my life, there have been occasions when people have assumed I was a more recent immigrant or that I didn’t speak English (and that speaking loudly at me while enunciating slowly would help me understand their popcorn order when I worked at Kernels). These occasions were always a surprise, but really the greater message is that Canada is a country of immigrants, made up of all cultures, races, religions and languages.

I love that.

And I love that one of our Prime Ministers thought that this country of multi-cultures was valuable enough that he declared a multicultural policy in 1970 that stated Canada would recognize and treat equally all people. (Thank you, Pierre Elliott Trudeau). And then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney enacted the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (section 27 under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) a decade later. Thank you, Mr. Mulroney.

And if you follow our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau you know that the Canadian values of compassion and equality are alive and well in the vibes we send out to our local and global communities.

I love that.

The first time I met people who had to leave their land against their will because of violence, war and destruction, I was in grade 8. These were the Afghani people who escaped through the mountains, stayed in camps in Pakistan and found their way here to Canada. Today there are still people fleeing unimaginable circumstances and miraculously finding their way here. Now that I’m an adult, a mother, I can ask myself, “What would it be like if I had to leave Canada without my possessions, against my will, and with my 3 children clinging to me?” I can’t even imagine. The rest of the world is foreign to me, even Kenya, even India (where my ancestors are originally from). I am proud that Canada is a haven to those who need it. And I know most Canadians live up to our reputation.

I love that.

I also loved that when I went to graduate school for speech therapy in the United States, those who knew I wasn’t there from India (more people there than here assumed I was), automatically knew I was Canadian. Maybe it was the fact that I was searching for my grey toque left behind in the computer lab, and nobody understood what I was looking for. Maybe it was because of the way I said sorry, and how often. (It’s just polite). Could have been the maple leaf on my backpack. Or the fact I sometimes had a hard time transcribing what the kids in our speech-language sessions were saying because the vowels were different. Maybe they knew I was Canadian because when I overheard people say overtly racist things and *nobody* around them flinched, I was like, “You just say things like that?” While it’s true that racism has definitely not been left out of Canadian history and unfortunately exists in the present, I think most of us are conscious of it (the overt forms of it, anyway) and are working hard to adjust our perspectives. The Canadian culture, in general, strives to live harmoniously. And I love that our culture is palpable as soon as we cross the border into our beautiful land.

I love that I can be Canadian and South Asian and Muslim and a woman etc and that doesn’t take away from my Canadian-ness. In fact, all the parts of my identify add to my awesome-ness, and Canadians are awesome. So really, being awesome makes me, overall, super Canadian. Eh?

Today my nation and my people celebrate our beautiful country of which we are proud to be citizens. All of us who aren’t First Nations have come from the world over. Canada is a country of immigrants. It’s a land of peace, compassion, kindness, and open-mindedness. These are our values and I have tremendous faith that we will continue to raise the bar in living up to those values as we celebrate more and more Canada Days.

I love you, Canada. Thank you for all the opportunities you have given me and my family. Thank you for inspiring me to be the best version of me.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

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