I read this article today.
If you’re too lazy to click, it details how an immigrant family moved to Toronto 50 years ago with $48 in their pockets. They just made the single biggest donation to Scarborough Health Networks in their history. I technically saved you the click, but the first paragraph spells all that out in a more concise and orderly fashion. Weirdly, my first thought went to anti-immigrant sentiment. Very little makes my blood boil like anti-immigrant rhetoric. Most of us immigrated at some stage along our family’s history. At what point does “I got mine” and refusing new entrants become acceptable? In my mind, it doesn’t. Look, I openly admit that I know nothing about managing immigration on a national scale, but I will go to my grave convinced that inviting a myriad of cultures into the fold always does more good than harm.
Sure, I have Canadian citizenship, but for all intents and purposes, I may as well be an immigrant. I came from another country never having lived here before. I’ve gone through my share of culture shock. There have been things I’ve acclimated to, and others I’ve shunned in favour of preferred practices I came with. I’ve shared elements of my country’s culture with others. Mostly, like Marmite and Pineapple Lumps, they’ve been middling successes. Still, I love inviting others to enjoy the things I adored about my upbringing. I’ve been working, and contributing to the economy. I’m now in a position where I feel like I’m providing a service that helps people, and that makes me happy. There are a ton of misgivings I do have about Canada. It’s very conservative and stuffy in a lot of ways. There seem to be layers of needless bureaucracy in many areas. Banking lags considerably behind the systems back home. It’s insane that we’re still in a First Past the Post system in 2019, and the political system seems shambolic, ripe for the populist style of right wing government that’s been plaguing the world in recent years. There’s a weird reverence that people seem to have for big box US stores and chains, which is kind of worrying. Toronto’s gentrification is accelerating at a rapid rate, with the youth and artists being pushed out of the city. Things are becoming homogeneous, safe and boring.
At the same time, imagine how this place would be without immigration. One of the best things about Toronto is that it’s rife with wonderful cultural neighbourhoods. If I want to get Ethiopian (and when do I not?), there are 3-5 places within a 15 minute walk of me. There are Greek, Italian, Portugese, Indian, Korean and Chinese clusters of places, which all have their own delights. People care about their culture, and it’s awesome to see/explore. If not for immigration over the years, I imagine Toronto would be all glass towers, Jack Astors and Second Cups. It would be the soulless mire that Tory/Ford seem so intent on fostering.
Immigrants bring innovation. They have new, refreshing ideas. Everyone has different ways of doing things, and that’s a help, not a hindrance. Learning more about other cultures only strengthens us all. It’s not just about trying delicious food (though personally, that’s huge for me), we’re far better off with diversity. Sometimes immigrants feel lonely, and seek to maintain their own culture. It makes them feel safe and secure. I’ve heard a lot of bullshit when in Rome rhetoric from people saying they should just acclimate to the Canadian way of life. Are the people saying this making an effort to welcome these newcomers? Make them feel like they belong? Are they trying to explore these new cultures? Or are they entrenched in the misguided idea of their own cultural superiority, and refusing to look outside it?
We all have so much to learn from one another, and hate cannot survive empathy. Diversity has only ever enriched my life, and I implore everyone to seek it out where they can.