"My parents met in the U.K. in the 1970s: my mother had moved from Norway and was working in London, while my father had arrived from Bangladesh to pursue an educational opportunity. They met and eventually married. When they decided to have a family, they were very conscious about living in a country where they would be accepted, and where there would be opportunities for themselves and their children. They chose Canada.
Even in the 1970s, Canada had a cosmopolitan reputation, where their backgrounds and status as immigrants were not barriers to success.
We lived in Oakville, Ontario which became increasingly diverse as a I grew older. Around middle school, there was a sufficient influx of other culturally diverse students that I no longer felt that my brother and I were outliers. For university, I went to the United States, and noticed how its approach to multiculturalism is different from our own. In the U.S., there are “diverse” neighbourhoods, but that diversity does not penetrate the mainstream the way it does in Canada. Our cosmopolitanism sets us apart. Ethnic minorities living in the U.S. are expected to conform to the American archetype. Sure, those pressures exist in Canada as well but to a lesser extent. And there is enough diversity of opinion about what the Canadian archetype actually is that we generally have more latitude to be who we are.
Canadian identity is structured around a set of values based on mutual respect. We reject cultural norms of what a Canadian ought to be -- whether that’s a particular religious belief or ethnicity, or even a preferred snack or sport. What binds us is a commitment to each other, to allow each of us to be who we are and live as we would like to live.
My wife is from the Prairies: her parents immigrated from Hong Kong, and she was born and raised in Regina. Together, we are raising two kids who bask in Toronto’s multicultural offerings. They will ask for Jerk Chicken on Monday; Peking Duck on Tuesday; and Tandoori chicken on Wednesday. They look forward to celebrating Christmas and Eid, and are learning to speak English, French, and Mandarin. Whereas I was conscious of my “otherness” at a very young age, they have no idea that the rest of the world would describe them as “mixed”.
There is no doubt that our conception of Canada is under threat. We need to ensure that others see the value in what we have built. Even -- or especially -- those who believe in the Canadian experiment have work to do. Whether our ancestors actually did the colonizing, immigrants to Canada also live on colonized soil. We must recognize and address the evils of our collective past, particularly in relation to our treatment of Indigenous peoples. Only by decolonizing can we reach our true promise as a country." Nader, Toronto / Treaty 13