Who is a true Canadian? Is it Justin Beaver? Or is it Celine Dion? Perhaps it is Margaret Atwood or Aubrey Drake Graham?
Recently an elderly man came up to Jagmit Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party, suggesting him to cut off his turban so he can look more like a Canadian. “In Rome, you do as the Romans do,” the man stated. Singh, a Sikh by faith, who wears a turban was on a campaign trail in Montreal kindly told the man, ” Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.”
Whether we like it or not many people in Canada still have a certain perception as to who is a true Canadian. If that very question was to be polled today, a large percentage of the respondents would probably say a Caucasian person from a European descent.
That is not true since Canada is made up of immigrants who have come to this country from all over the world. Yes, the Europeans in the late 15th century were the first settlers pushing aside the Indigenous people to the outskirts, but Canadians come in all faiths, colours, economic background, etc.
Although 21.9 percent of Canada’s 37 million citizens are immigrants, then why is there still a perception that the average Canadian is Caucasian. Sadly, this perception also exists not only at home but also abroad. Recently I was in the Philippines, and when I told this person in the hotel I was staying at that I was Canadian, he was shocked. “…but you are not white”, he quickly responded. And him knowing very well that the Filipino community is one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in Canada.
It is predicted that in the coming years, visible minorities will be the majority in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
Could it be the fact that Canadians of European descent are still in positions of power where much of Canada’s decisions are made. Or maybe individuals from visible minority communities have not made enough strides into the mainstream community. Or that people of colour have not been in Canada for that long period of time, despite Chinese and Indian Sikhs have been in Canada for over a century.
Whatever the reason, deep ignorance still exists among many Canadians despite the nice tolerant image Canadians try to display at home and abroad.
I can still recall my grandmother’s wise words in the late 1970’s when someone made racist remarks towards her, ” these people should judge me by what is in my heart not what I wear”.
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