Identity matters. It has an influence on how we see ourselves and the world around us. For me, this question was always a complicated one to answer. Now, at the age of 33, I have found that there is no other label that incorporates everything I am like the label of “the Canadian.” So what do I mean when I say this?
Every country has a story they tell about themselves. In the United States, that story is ‘freedom and liberty for all’. In Canada, we are told to be nice to each other. We open doors for people in public spaces, apologize for practically everything and do our best to be polite in all situations. Before we can begin tackling the big issues in our society, our starting point must be respect. This is the foundation of any fruitful dialogue or discussion. Whether in business or in our private lives.
Growing up in Canada provided me with the unique opportunity to encounter so many cultures at a young age. My classmates had parents from China, Italy, Rwanda, and many other countries. Even though we all looked different, spoke different languages with our parents, and ate different food, we shared a common home.
In 1971, the Government of Canada declared that Canada would adopt a multicultural policy. The Government would recognize and respect its society including its diversity in languages, customs, religions, and so on. This policy has had a big influence on the development of Canadian society. Today, Canada is called the ‘Great Mosaic’. This refers to the diversity of the people living within its borders who create a thriving and colorful land.
Canada has learned how to be strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them and going forward, that capacity will be at the heart of both our success and of what we offer the world.Justin Trudeau, Prime-Minister of Canada
Being open to new people and ideas informs everything I do. There are many things that I can learn from you, in the same way that I believe you can learn something from me. My upbringing in Canada has fundamentally changed the way I interact with people who are different from me.
Back in grade 8, I remember reading the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” in English class. There was one quote that really stuck out for me.
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Back in grade 8, I didn’t really understand the repercussions of this statement, but with time I’ve witnessed the power in these words. I’ve met people across Canada who have taken a genuine interest in who I am and in my story. People that have been there for me when I needed it most. Individuals who showed me with their actions that they care about me.
So before I make a judgment of someone, I ask myself, “what would I do if I were in their situation?”. It’s not always easy to do when you don’t fully understand someone, but if you keep this in mind, it will lead to better interactions.
I know that I’ve painted a picture of Canada that may seem unrealistic. And it may actually be unrealistic. But when I talk about respect, openness and empathy, I’m talking about ideals to strive for. We are not yet there, but we are moving in that direction. And that’s what I want for my own life as well.
What are the ideals that you live by? Leave a comment in the comments section below.