"My Canadian identity is complicated. Like many immigrants, my family came to Canada to escape the consequences of colonialism. My father grew up in Bangladesh, during a period of instability and intense violence that culminated in the Bangladesh Liberation War. The war cost my father’s family everything. By the end of it, he was living in a refugee camp. My mother’s family immigrated to Revelstoke, BC in the 1970s for better economic and social opportunities that were limited to them due to Indian class systems influenced by British colonization. Their experience as one of the few families of colour in that small town was not easy, but they persevered.
My father ended up leaving Bangladesh to come to Canada for graduate studies. He met my mother in Calgary, where he was doing his master's degree, and they married. We moved around the country for his academic career. We lived in Toronto, Waterloo, Peterborough, Montreal, and Victoria, where my parents have built a wonderful life together.
Experiencing Canada from these diverse vantage points showed me different ways of being "Canadian". I am grateful to live in Canada, but I know that as much of our Canadian story is, in part, about escaping the consequences of colonialism in South Asia, we participate in a new system of colonialism here that still greatly impacts Indigenous peoples.
My family is conscious of the role we play and the responsibility we have to address these issues. My father, a water quality scientist, collaborates with Indigenous communities to address the significant issues of public health they face; he is deeply passionate about that work. My mother is an active supporter of the Indigenous arts community in BC.
When I was an occupational therapist in Edmonton, I worked closely with a Cree Elder to provide better, culturally competent care to Indigenous clients. He was generous in teaching me about his traditions and invited me to sweat lodge ceremonies where I got to know other members of the community. Later, I would attend the TRC hearings that were held in Edmonton. Those experiences were deeply powerful and reshaped my understanding of Canada's history, and what it means to be "Canadian."
Being a Canadian, for me, involves gratitude for my freedoms and quality of life, but also an acknowledgement of the history of oppression Indigenous peoples have experienced for centuries, and still experience to this day. In my opinion, Canadian identity is the absence of a fixed identity. There’s no set of characteristics that make someone "truly" Canadian, "old stock", or "new stock". This accommodates a variety of experiences and people, including my own. Our identity is one that is constantly shifting, and one that, I hope, involves a true understanding of our past, and hope for a better, and more equitable future for those who have lived on this land for millennia, and those who are just arriving." Robin, Kitchener / Haldimand Tract