While we focus on (and maybe obsess over) the nutrients, vitamins or calories in our food, food social enterprises like Newcomer Kitchen are using food's potential to open minds, build healthy communities, and open minds. "You are what you eat" takes on new meaning if we consider not only what is in our dinner, but how and with whom we are dining.
This is how Canada treats its immigrants and its citizens who have dared to fall in love with a foreigner. Because while the details of my story may be different than other immigrants to Canada, the general premise remains the same. The Canadian immigration system has failed us and has failed our Canadian partners.
Today, the world remembers a child who never had the chance to seize life at all. His name was Alan Kurdi. You'll recall him as the little Syrian boy who, was found dead on a beach in Turkey the morning of September 2, 2015. He had stepped into a crowded inflatable boat with his family the night before, in a desperate attempt to each Europe in safety. Alan's death rocked people everywhere -- from families in their homes to leaders in the halls of power. When children like Alan reached out for help, we didn't reach back.
The ratio of working-age Canadians to seniors was narrowing, and the inevitable outcome would be a shrunken tax base and acute labour shortages. Over the next decade, a million jobs risk going unfilled. And yet, only around one in 10 Canadians agrees that Canada currently admits too few immigrants. The annual (and sometimes multi-year) public consultations held by the Federal Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration on levels of newcomers do not seem to have yielded much success in changing this attitude.
Differences are what enrich our lives and make Toronto the fabulous, unique, successful city it is. Xenophobia (a fear or hatred of strangers and foreigners) has no place in a city built upon these differences. It threatens the very core of who we as Torontonians are. It is also what motivated the horrific and unacceptable attack in which a woman was beaten and robbed by two young men. They tore off her hijab and told her to "Go back to your country."
Stop with the ignorant posts, people. Think about it before you blindly share some meme, or post that's not even accurate. You sound stupid. We share this planet with 7 billion other people -- some estimates suggest that 2.2 billion of them are Muslim. Enough with the "If we went to your country, we'd have to live by your rules." Stop. Muslim is not a country. I'm sorry if pointing out your religious intolerance has offended you, but it was the same type of ignorance and vitriol that eventually caused the slaughter of millions of Jews in the Second World War. Before you're too quick to defend your hate speech, marinate in that for a minute and think about if you want to contribute to that kind of hate.
When we no longer have confidence in collective action, why would we even bother to ask something of our anemic government? By not taking firm steps to deal with the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis from the beginning, we have allowed a ticking time bomb of humanity to destabilize the Middle East and give comfort to vocal xenophobic factions in Europe.
My family came here with only the belongings they could carry with them to give themselves and their children an opportunity to have a better life. Within one generation, I achieved a law degree. I have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the Canadian community. I am but one example of thousands, evidence that should easily persuade you to conclude that assistance to refugees is a solid investment in the future of our nation, and not simply an act of charity.
Just before the end of the year, Lucia Vega Jiminez took her own life while in immigration detention at the Vancouver airport. That a young woman in good health would take her own life is deeply unsettling, and an inconsolable loss to those who loved her. Beyond this, there are at least four things seriously troubling about this story that all Canadians should be concerned about.