This past week a newcomer to Canada from India reached out to me. M, who is in his thirties, his wife and their toddler arrived three months ago. He has secured a part-time position in a financial institution but is looking for suitable opportunities commensurate with his experience and skill sets. They are temporarily living with his wife’s family.
As is my wont, I asked why they had chosen to move to Canada and was told that they are here for a “better quality of life” and a “better future for their child”. M and his wife willingly gave up their jobs and a comfortable lifestyle “back home” after due risk-reward considerations, to come here. True entrepreneurship! M confided that frustration surfaces at times, raising doubts whether they had made the right decision to move. But, he added, rather than feel sorry he sets out for long walks to explore his neighbourhood and the city. “The clean environment and fresh air clear my head and I come back fully refreshed and charged up”. When the first snow came, M excitedly related how he rushed out with his little daughter, both clad in their new snow gear and spent time outside to savour this novel experience even as the rest of his family tut-tutted, saying they’d “catch a cold”!
M is doing everything copybook style – he has enrolled with a number of Settlement Agencies and is taking appropriate courses, has created multiple resumes to suit different positions, continues to grow his network, volunteers at the local library and other community organizations etc. Anything I could possibly suggest, he already had a handle on it! Rather than being a mentor to him, our conversation over one and a half hours transformed me into becoming his mentee.
M is one of over 300,000 Permanent Residents Canada welcomes each year. The celebrated Indo-American author of “Maximum City” and a finalist of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, Suketu Mehta writes in his recently published book “This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto” that:
“In 2016, (Canada) welcomed 320,000 immigrants. One out of five Canadians today was born somewhere else. And the Canadian public loves it. Eighty-two percent (and rising) think immigration is a good thing; two-thirds also love multiculturalism, the idea that there isn’t, nor should there be, a uniform Canadian culture. Ninety-five percent think someone born abroad will be as good a citizen as someone born in Canada …. What the findings do tell us—through empirically grounded facts—is that, amidst the noise of global ethnic conflict, grim warnings about domestic terrorism and a lethargic economy that is failing many, most of us are keeping the faith in Canada as the most welcoming multicultural society on the planet.”
Suketu adds, “… On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, “What God do you pray to?” “What beliefs do you hold?” … There is no neighborhood in (New York) that is off limits to God’s love and mercy …. Immigrants are 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they started a quarter of all new businesses and earned over a third of all the Nobel Prizes in science given to Americans. One out of every four U.S. tech companies established since 1995 was founded by an immigrant, and a third of Silicon Valley workers are immigrants …. …. of the twenty-five biggest tech companies in 2013, immigrants or their children founded 60 percent of them, such as Apple’s Steve Jobs, son of a Syrian immigrant, and Google’s Sergey Brin, who came from Russia at the age of six.”
During our conversation M pointedly stated, “How can a prospective employer tell me that I am unemployable because I lack Canadian work experience? It is the Canadian Government that has invited me to come to this country after having vetted and approved my credentials, including my work experience!”
In his book, Mehta opines that “All men are not created equal. Just like the undocumented Salvadorans slaving away in the kitchens and on the farms of America, or the “guest workers” in Europe who’re expected to leave after their host nations stop needing them. I’ve always found the term “guest worker” puzzling. If you invite a guest into your home, you give him food and drink; you don’t ask him to wash the dishes and clean the toilet. If he does do it, he is no longer a guest; he is your roommate.”
In spite of the walls being raised or citizenship registries being compiled elsewhere, Canada needs and welcomes people like M. He will be neither a guest nor a roommate here, but a proud landowner.