(Photo: Tasha Tuvango via Getty Images)
Heather Mallick is a respected journalist working for Canada's most-circulated progressive newspaper. She is one of the few Canadian journalists allowed to write on any topic she chooses. That is a great privilege and responsibility to have. Her work has been recognized in many ways. While I am a fan, her latest column on how new Canadians can learn to like it here falls short of the standard of writing I have come to expect from her.
If she really thinks all it takes to make immigrants feel at home in Canada is a conversation with a pharmacist at a Shoppers Drug Mart or getting lost at a Canadian Tire franchise, perhaps she is living in a bubble. She should expand her conversation outside of the 1 Yonge Street building and into the real world.
As a substitute for her observations, I offer the practical things that helped me transition from being an immigrant to a citizen of what is essentially the best country in the world.
Toronto Reference Library. (Photo: Krzystztof Dydynski via Getty Images)
1. Local libraries
Read the boards for information on opportunities, and if you live in Toronto, consider visiting the library early Saturday morning. That's when they give out free museum passes courtesy of Canada's noted Governor General, Adrianne Clarkson, who was once a refugee herself. Canadian museums are the most undervalued of institutions, but are extremely important to make us better citizens.
It may be in the local soup kitchen or at the community association, but do volunteer. This may come handy when the "Canadian experience" is needed on your resume.
3. A mentor
When I successfully nominated Bruce Alexander for an honorary degree with former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, the well-connected Bay Street lawyer who has been known to mentor immigrants, he called on anyone to reach out to him if they needed help. Do that. There are many decent, well-established Canadians willing to have a conversation.
Canadian television news anchor Peter Mansbridge. (Photo: YouTube)
4. Canadian TV, radio - CBC, TVO and CPAC
Canadian journalists such as Steve Paikin and Peter Mansbridge taught me more about Canadian history, journalism and politics than I bargained for. Listening to CBC radio, especially Matt Galloway and Andy Barrie, made me an activist and a better citizen. I discovered the late Dalton Camp and Stephen Lewis by listening to CBC radio during my early years in Canada.
5. Learning to love Canadian snow
It is no wonder why rich people migrate to Florida when the snow gets to a depressing level. But find a way to enjoy it. Ski, hockey?
6. Attending parliamentary debates
When I first visited the Canadian parliament, I was shocked that a separatist party was represented and that they were the official opposition. They were respected, not charged with treason and thrown in jail like in most countries. That is Canada.
Poutine. (Photo: Lauri Patterson via Getty Images)
7. Discovering poutine isn't the only 'Canadian' food
This Quebec delicacy is not healthy nor is there anything special to it. I am sure that in your journey to Canada you have tasted many things better. Instead, visit the ethnic enclaves found all over Toronto. Little Ethiopia on Danforth is where Canada's emerging African population gather to enjoy injera and a unique coffee ceremony. The Italian, Portuguese areas on College and China Town offer the most wonderful cuisine.
Activism is a great Canadian tradition. Join a march to protest any issue that interests you -- from Donald Trump, to racism, to the issue of allowing new immigrants to vote in local elections. Protesters are often the most patriotic and engaged Canadian citizens. Get to know them and learn from them on how to be a good, fulfilled citizen. You do not need a citizenship for that -- a heart will do.
9. Being politically active
Join political parties, become partisan. You are a future political candidate. Just look at Ahmed Hussen, your immigration minister.
A cup of Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts. (Photo: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
10. Avoiding Tim Hortons
It sucks. Nobody feels patriotic by drinking nasty coffee from there, and besides -- it is no longer a Canadian company. Good riddance. Enjoy Canadian beer instead. It really is great.
As the late Jack Layton reminded us all -- "Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."
That is what kept me awake at night as I transitioned to a Canadian citizen.
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> Immigrants: 7.3 million > Pct of population: 20.7% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $42,734 > Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain Currently, 7.3 million immigrants live in Canada, equivalent to more than 20% of the nation’s total population. As 2011, the Canadian government was one of the few to propose policies that would increase the level of immigration for the purpose of family unification. The level of immigration, more generally, was considered satisfactory in the same year, according to the U.N. In spite of Canada’s exceptionally liberal immigration policies, there has been concern recently over whether Canada’s immigrants are successfully integrating into society. To avoid the potential social tension that could arise from a growing economic difference between immigrants and locals, the Canadian government has restructured its screening process to emphasize factors such as job skills and language fluency. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 7.4 million > Pct of population: 11.6% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $35,548 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease Just 11.6% or France’s roughly 65 million residents are international migrants. According to the U.N. Population division, while the French government promoted some policies aimed at attracting skilled immigrants as of 2011, the governments overall attitude toward immigration was generally negative. As a member of the European Union, France is obligated to support the free movement of EU nationals between the EU nations. In recent years, however, the European Commission has criticized the French government for expelling Roma, popularly called Gypsies, from the country. France’s existing immigrant population is older, with nearly 20% at least 65 years of age, compared to just 11.1% globally. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 7.8 million > Pct of population: 12.4% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $36,941 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease About 7.8 million million immigrants live in the U.K., up from just under 6.5 million as of 2010. This is despite the U.K. government’s view, as of 2011, that the large influx of foreigners to the country was somewhat of a problem. The government’s policies intended to lower the level of immigration to the country, including high-skilled workers immigration. Only one of the world’s eight largest destinations for immigrants, the United Arab Emirates, had a higher average annual increase in immigration that exceeded the U.K.’s 4.0%. Although the country’s aging population may actually signal a necessity for more immigrants, British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that immigration has strained the nation’s public services. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 7.8 million > Pct of population: 83.7% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $49,012 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease A stunning 83.7% of UAE residents are international migrants the most of any country in the world, excluding only Vatican City. Between 2010 and 2013, the emirates let in more than 4.5 million migrant workers, more than any other nation in the world. The UAE is able to attract workers to come there because the country is extremely wealthy, with an economy driven by oil and finance. As of 2012, the nation’s per capita GDP exceeded $49,000, on-par with that of the U.S. But despite the nation’s appeal for immigrants, the UAE’s government as of 2011 considered immigration to be too high. Additionally, the country has been criticized for the poor living and working conditions faced by many migrant workers. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 9.1 million > Pct of population: 31.4% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $31,275 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease Nearly one-third of Saudi Arabia’s population consists of immigrants, while between 2000 and 2013 the number of immigrants rose by an annual average of 4.2% per year, higher than most other nations. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, the number of immigrants to Saudi Arabia rose 24.3% As of 2011, the Saudi Arabian government regarded the overall level of legal immigration as too high and implemented policies to reduce immigration, according to the UN had. Similarly, the government’s policies on the naturalization of immigrants were also considered restrictive. Recent news reports suggest immigration policy in Saudi Arabia has only become more restrictive with new measures implemented to prevent undocumented workers from finding employment. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
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> Immigrants: 11.0 million > Pct of population: 7.7% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $17,709 > Gov’t immigration goals: Increase More than 12 million immigrants lived in Russia in 2010 and the Russian government was among the few seeking to increase the number of foreigners entering the country. In 2011, the country’s government viewed immigration as too low and oriented its policies towards increasing immigration. However, these policies have failed to attract more net immigrants: as of this year, there are just over 11 million immigrants living in Russia, a decrease of roughly 10% from 2010. Local authorities have not embraced the prospect of single-ethnicity communities for Chinese, Uzbeks, Tajiks and other ethnic groups in Russia ,and have even sought to ban them in some cases, hoping instead to promote integration into Russian society. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 45.8 million > Pct of population: 14.3% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $49,922 > Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain The U.S. is by far the largest destination for immigrants, with more than 45.7 million living in the country, according to the UN. As of 2011, the U.S. government’s policies toward both immigration and emigration remained effectively neutral. However, immigration reform has been especially prominent in Congress this year. This reform is expected to address issues related to illegal immigration, while determining how, and whether, undocumented immigrants should be able to attain citizenship. Considering the U.S. has one the highest per capita GDPs in the world, at nearly $50,000, its appeal to immigrants is fairly straightforward. It is the world’s largest economy, as measured by output, and has the second largest total exports. Also, the U.S. offers well-developed infrastructure and financial markets, as well as quality education. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
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