Posted on Feb 2, 2017
Lately, when I look around at what is happening in the world- be it immigration policies in the U.S or a deadly Mosque attack in Quebec- I find myself sad, frightened, and not quite sure what to say or do.
However, given that I represent one of the most diverse ridings in Alberta, and because I care deeply about my constituents and neighbours, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about something positive. I want to talk about the incredibly positive impact of the members of our community who are immigrants and refugees.
My husband and I chose to buy a house in East Calgary for many reasons, but one of them is that we believe in the power of diversity. We believe that our children will be more empathetic and caring citizens if they grow up sharing experiences with those who are different from them. We believe in the uniting power of learning more than one language. We believe that communities are better when they operate as one voice, instead of in individual silos.
I am fortunate in my job that I get to see examples of things that confirm my beliefs about diversity every day. I often tell people that immigrants are the hardest working people I know, because it is the truth. One Iraqi man I know came to Canada to provide a better life for his children. When he arrived he had no car, and didn’t speak much English. To provide for his family he worked two jobs- as a mechanic during the day and as a cook at night. Because the bus didn’t run past two am, he often walked home from his night job- over an hour, sometimes in the freezing cold. On top of this he attended ESL classes on the weekend to improve his English. He pays taxes, volunteers in his spare time, and is now a Canadian citizen. This is only one story, but the theme is common. To overcome the barriers inherent in moving to a new country, you have to work extra hard to succeed. And they do, and they are grateful for the opportunity that Canada has given them.
There is the South Sudanese community, who are organizing to help their families back home in the midst of a civil war, and also to help their youth succeed in the education system here in Calgary.
There is the group of ESL students who organized the Pho Down, a community event that attracted over 600 people to East Calgary during Stampede and helped increase visibility for Vietnamese food and culture.
There is little Syria, a townhouse complex in Forest Lawn where Syrian refugees have helped each other, worked to learn English, and started new businesses. Where they welcome their new Canadian friends and neighbours.
There is the Ethno Cultural Council of Calgary, who train immigrants to be community activists and leaders. As well as the Calgary Multicultural Orchestra - an after school program that is run by Jose Duque, a Venezuelan immigrant, that gives low-income immigrant youth the opportunity to learn, make, and share music.
There is every single small business owner in the riding who was not born in Canada. Who make amazing food, sew clothes, fix cars and so much more. They are kind, welcoming, and help make our community an amazing place to live.
The vast majority of Albertans know this and are proud of our multicultural heritage. With what is happening in the world right now it is more important than ever that we say this out loud. Those of us who have the great privilege of being born in this country must take a stand for what we believe in. Call out that racist comment, interrupt when you see abuse happening, make friends with someone from another country. We know what kind of Alberta we want to live in: one that is welcoming, inclusive, and a place where anyone can succeed.
We can do it, but we have to do it together.