By Abu Abid
I remember once when I was younger, my family moved into a house only for a couple of months. We knew that this was not a permanent house that we’d be in. We knew that in only a few months we would be moving again. We didn’t unpack our good china, put up the karate trophies or even paint the walls colours that made us happy. We had a nice backyard; but one we knew would not be ours for long.
When my siblings and I went to school, we tried not to take part in any extracurricular activities in fear that we might make too many friends. Why wouldn’t we want to make friends you ask? Tell me which is easier; making friends and losing them when you move or putting up with a slightly boring life for only a few months. You guessed it.
You might be wondering why I am sharing this story with you. Well, in addition to my biological family, I have another family. This family is my community. We are an immigrant community. We come from a variety of backgrounds, countries and experiences. Some of us were born into families that immigrated to Canada while others made this journey on their own. Some of us spent our blood and sweat working in countries that were happy to use us for labour but were not generous enough to embrace us as citizens. Others came to Canada on our own with no support network. We worked as general labourers, security officers, cashiers and salespeople. And some of us are still new here and still catching up to the others. Our beginnings are not the same but our current state seems to be similar. We have somehow ended up as a community in Canada.
The trauma of having to leave a home, a community and a life is what prevented my family from getting attached to the next home. Our community of immigrants is no different. We have seen the trauma of having to leave our country of birth. We have been conditioned to work and serve a country that clearly declared it has no interest in us beyond our ability to provide cheap labour. We have lived in countries that restricted us in our ability to declare our faiths and beliefs. And most importantly we have learned to live in a country without making it our own. The struggle we went through has made us stronger in some ways but weaker in other ways.
The story so far seems pretty grim, but there is good news my friends. This story has a good ending.
We have struggled past the hard chapters and are at the good part. We’ve made it to the end. We’ve made Canada our home. A country that is not like some of the other places we’ve been in. A country that gives a bright future for our children. A country that takes pride in allowing us to represent and establish our culture and faith. A country that we can embrace as our own and more importantly a country that will embrace us as it’s own.
One of the best ways that our community can help establish this Muslim Canadian identity that our children will be proud of is through a stronger understanding of our social responsibility.
When we went to court and gave our citizenship oath we took an additional responsibility on our shoulders; that is to safeguard the future of our country. It is our responsibility now to ensure that we fulfill this oath. We should no longer stand back and be spectators that are disengaged and detached. We should be the ones leading efforts to conserve the environment. We should be the ones encouraging others to fulfil their responsibility in elections by voting. We should be the ones welcoming new Canadians and helping them overcome the obstacles we once faced.
But we won’t be able to do this, until we’re ready to unpack.
So my dear friends let me invite you to do as I have done. Make Canada your home. Unpack the good china, put up the karate trophies and paint your room in a colour that makes you happy. We have all seen the “I am Canadian” commercials on TV. You are right Joe, you are Canadian, but being Canadian is far more involved than clearing up stereotypes Americans have about Canadians. Being Canadian is also about embracing the set of values and freedoms that Canada represents. By doing this perhaps it is possible to be more Canadian than even someone born and raised in Canadian.
I am an immigrant and I became Canadian.