Commentary by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton, ON
On July 1st, we Canadians celebrate Canada Day, the day which memorIalizes the act of confederation, the day Canada became its own nation.
It was snowing and bone-chillingly cold when I arrived in Canada in November 1989. Mississauga was just hit by a snowstorm, there were 20 centimetres of snow on the road, something I’d never seen in India. It was a warm welcome from a strange new country and Canada instantly won my heart.
My Canadian education started in grade 8, my English was very poor at the time. They wanted to put me in ESL but I resisted. How could I improve my English in a class full of students who also couldn’t speak English? I wanted to be in regular English classes with Canadian-born kids. I managed to convince my school to let take math and science two years above my grade.
It was terrifying when I first got into the school system. I was shy, nervous and felt very alone. Nobody wanted to do group work with me because my English was poor. I had no friends. But I never let that bother me.
A Message from a New Canadian
Ignore negative people and actively seek out those willing to support you. I sought those people and took full advantage of any support I could get. That really paid off. My heartfelt advice to any newcomer to Canada is be courageous, don’t lose hope and work hard! Be your own advocate; when others doubt what you’re capable of, show them.
Cold weather, overly-apologetic people and hockey are internationally recognized symbols but this great nation has so much to offer newcomers. I’ve been in Canada almost 30 years and I’m happy to be celebrating Canada’s 152nd birthday.
Spend this Canada Day at an event, a community party, visit city hall. Don’t just visit or attend, participate. Find your Member of Parliament or local politician and shake their hand. If you’re new to your area, look for a presentation of its history. Get to know your surroundings and the people.
I’m glad I chose Canada because of the wonderful, helpful Canadians I’ve met along my journey. Canada is successful as a nation because it’s a country founded and built by people who came here by choice. People who immigrated here for the chance at a new life, who’ve worked hard to create it and generation by generation built a tolerant society.
Peace has deep roots in Canada. It’s a country where people are free to express themselves in whatever way they choose. We’re free to choose our language, our religion, our political beliefs, who we love and how we dress. All Canadians are granted these freedoms and we depend on a fair judicial system to protect these rights.
Multiculturalism in Canada
It’s fascinating living in a multicultural environment like the Greater Toronto Area, especially as a journalist. I have the opportunity to meet people with very different backgrounds and learn about their cultures. That multicultural spirit is what Canada stands for and it’s what makes us great. Canadians include everybody, respect everybody and give equality to all, regardless of where they’re from.
However, circumstances have changed for people who live in Quebec. A few weeks ago the Quebec government passed Bill 21 which prohibits public service workers from wearing religious symbols or garb during office hours. Public service workers such as teachers, police officers and judges are affected by the new law, in an attempt to keep public institutions secular. Religious items such as hijabs, kippahs, turbans and crucifixes are all banned. Current employees are exempt from the new legislation.
Besides that, Canada is still one of the greatest countries in the world. Four seasons, beautiful landscapes, love, peace, hockey, free healthcare—all in abundance. Not to mention support for people with various physical handicaps or intellectual disabilities, for free.
Canada is my home now, and I have deep fondness and love for this country. It’s given me hundreds of special moments and incredible friends and acquaintances. I am proud to be a Canadian, and happy Canada Day to all!