Over the last two months I had to take Uber or Lyft for my commute every day with my son. Both of us looked forward to these rides, albeit for different reasons. For my son, a car fanatic, this meant he could see and experience a new car every day. At four, he can recognize the car coming for us through the App. “It’s a Volkswagen,” he’d say looking at the picture, much to my amazement. “I love this Hyundai Elantra. Toyota is my best.” At times this would lead him to ask for a toy version, Hot Wheels, of those cars.
For me though, these rides were my chance at connecting with another human being. Even though I could not see the driver’s face beyond the veil of the masks, their eyes spoke. Some friendly, some not-so-friendly, some outright aloof and some felt instantly intimate. The rides were escape from my loneliness as a new immigrant in Canada living amidst the strict lockdown protocols. I could talk to another human being that is not my family. These human interactions were so rare in the pasts one-and-half-year of the pandemic that I started chatting as soon as I got in.
In Canada, most conversations start with the weather but to me that is a given. The weather is usually cold. What more is there to say? I skip that. I’d just go ahead and ask the second question – where are you originally from? All the Uber and Lyft drivers I met during those two months had one commonality. Except for one who was Canada-born, they were all first-generation Canadians. My driver friends were from – Spain, Uganda, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Iraq, Syria, Singapore, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cuba, Bosnia, and Somalia. Granted I live in an extremely diverse part of the country, Mississauga, the territory of the Anishinabek, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Ojibway/Chippewa peoples; the land that is home to the Metis; and most recently, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. The current demographic of this area is that about 52% of the population speaks a language other than English, and 52.4% of the population are members of a visible minority (non-white or non-aboriginal). I came to this country from Nepal.
Why am I telling you this? Because this is what Canada is all about for me. It is a place people choose for safety, peace, hope and better life for themselves. It also speaks as a nation that embraces people from all religions, cultures, and ethnicity to build a Canada that is truly representative of the world.
1 out of 5 people in Canada’s population is foreign-born. Projections state that by 2031, nearly half (46 percent) of Canadians aged 15 and older could be foreign-born, or could have at least one foreign-born parent, up from 39 percent in 2006.
Immigrants form over 20 percent of Canadian population. The provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta are most racially diverse with immigrants choosing to build their bases in the major cities. Over the next three years 1.2 million will be coming as immigrants to make Canada their home.
It is because of this coming together of diverse population that most immigrants easily find ways to connect and form community through the food, religious places, and other cultural celebrations. If you are a new immigrant, you may feel overwhelmed by the language, the weather and the way things operate but dig a little deeper and you will find community that you can identify with, that you can relate to anywhere in Canada.
Canada is vast with enormous diversity in its terrain, people, and culture. All immigrants bring some of their own ethnic culture and identity and embrace the existing to form a vibrant Canada. That is what this country is – a potpourri of all of us.
This article was written by Meena Kaini.