In gratitude on Canada Day

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The Article

As Canada marks its 140th birthday it will be my 34th Canada Day celebration since I landed a generation ago at what is now Pearson International Airport.

My experience is common with most immigrants in Canada. We have been part of Canada’s growth, and also its vibrancy as the ethnic profile of Canadians in major urban centres changed during this period.

Each of us came with stories as immigrants from previous generations did and each of our stories became part of the Canadian narrative.

As a young adult I witnessed civil war, mass killings and refugee exodus. I fled the disaster wrought by humans, made my way to Canada sponsored by a relative and found here what one might imagine can be made real by commitment to work and study.

I worked in stores, restaurants and drove a cab while attending night school and then university. I discovered Canadian generosity was not a fable, and I know I would not be where I am without the support and kindness extended to me.

In the years since I landed near penniless, my relatives and family have grown and taken root in Canada. My son was born in Toronto and survived his ailment at birth only because of the care he received at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

I am often asked about my country, meaning from where I came. And I mostly answer my country is where my son was born, and where I laid my mother to rest.

It has been a long time since I stopped seeing myself as a hyphenated Canadian and did what others have done before me in making my unequivocal emotional investment in the country that took me in without any reservation, and gave me a home to be proud of.

During these past three decades there have been great changes within and outside Canada. Quebec separatists pushed Canada, for instance, to its edge, and newcomers from developing countries have made demands on the country for causes which should have been left behind whence they came.

The Cold War ended without a catastrophic bang, but conflicts have not abated and Canada is drawn by its commitment to protect freedom and democracy to support those struggling for the same.

Yet there are never-ending complaints. I take the Biblical story of Cain and Abel as an apt metaphor of the human condition, and no amount of social engineering will make a utopia where Cains embrace Abels and make their lands flow with milk and honey,

But the West through much bitter experience of its own did eventually discover the means of making a society least vulnerable to the caprices of Cains allowing Abels to prosper in relative security.

Canada is an example of such a society, and yet over the years I have heard too often voices disparage this country which remains generous without demanding much of any sort in return.

Since 9/11 a dark, ominous shadow has fallen across the land.

There are those among us who do not share Canadian values, some publicly rejects them, and others plot to harm us.

It would be best if they left our shores on their own, or the rest of us made certain we do not want them in our midst.

For most of us, I believe, as it is with me on this Canada Day and every day of the year, our hearts brim with gratitude for the land that gave us its shelter.

Salim Mansur
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