“My dad arrived to Canada in the early 1970s. He moved to northern BC to work in the lumber mills, spending his evenings studying retail management at a local community college. After graduating, he got a job setting up SAAN Stores, a department store chain from Winnipeg, in small towns across western Canada. His job was to move into a town, open up the store, get it running, and then move on to the next town to do the same.
My parents married in 1976, and together they continued to move between small towns across western Canada setting up SAAN Stores. My parents’ stories from the time really highlight the multicultural vision of Canada. My dad, often the only visible minority in town, was treated with respect, even authority, as the manager of often the town’s only department store. In one town, he was even asked to run for mayor (which he quickly declined). They were welcomed everywhere they went.
I grew up in Edmonton, in a lower- to middle-class, immigrant and working class neighbourhood called Mill Woods. The cultural diversity on my street and in my schools was incredible. In our community, it was important to recognize and understand each other’s unique cultural backgrounds, but they didn’t undermine our collective Canadian identity. We could be South Asian and Canadian, there was no conflict. I never felt that I was held back or targeted because of my race or ethnicity. In fact, it gave me confidence and strength.
However, I think that the understanding or vision of Canada my parents and I grew up with is under threat. I think people are asking us to consider our differences more than we need to. It creates divisions, an us-and-them dialogue that undermines our collective identity.
I am a big believer in the power of language, particularly the language our politicians use to communicate their vision for Canada. I am concerned that many are adopting the language of division, of mistrust between communities and towards newcomers. I feel like this undermines the values this country was built on, and our efforts to ensure that this country is for everyone. — Ranjan, Toronto/ Treaty 13