By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: With Canada celebrating its 146th birthday, it is interesting to see how since its birth this nation of more than 35 million people today has undergone some very drastic changes.
Till early 1950s, Canada’ population consisted mainly of Aboriginals and European settlers. However, the year 1967 was a major watershed in Canadian history. To celebrate Canada’s 100th birth anniversary Canadians invited the world to Montreal’s historic Expo. People from all over the world came and were impressed with this country’s natural beauty and hospitality. A lot of these visitors were very much interested in making Canada their new home.
This opened the door to new immigrants from Asia, especially from India and China. Later on they were joined by people from other continents like South America and Africa.
As the number of new immigrants from these non-European countries increased, the numbers from Europe declined. Consequently, today people representing 200 communities around the globe speaking more than 200 different languages call Canada their home.
Thus, during the past 60 or so years, Canada has become a truly multicultural and multilingual country. It is a matter of great pride for Canadians that togather we have managed to build a very prosperous, tolerant, peaceful, free and democratic society. Today, Canada has become an envy of the world. It is mainly due to the hard work, dedication and determination of Canadians to make this country as one of the best places on earth.
At present, immigrants from practically every corner of the world spread throughout this vast country call Canada their home. There will be hardly any country, culture or language in the world that is not represented here. On the whole, each of these communities gets along well with other communities. This country’s recognition of multiculturalism and inclusion as well as a strong desire to live peacefully, has made it as one of the most desirable countries to live in. Not only that, our free, secular, liberal and democratic society is the envy of others.
On special days like this, we get to reflect on Canadian culture and values. What does it mean to be a Canadian?
To most of us, it means living in the most peaceful, open, inclusive and welcoming country in the world. Canada’s policy of inclusion, openness as well as respect / appreciation for cultural diversity makes it a shining model for others. In addition to that, Canada’s relatively young yet rich history and its amazing beauty from coast to coast to coast have made it as one of the most pleasant places to live. Our strong sense of values as well as economic and political stability has made Canada a land of great opportunity.
Certainly, like any other country, Canada also has some problems of its own. But in the greater scheme of things, they are very minor. The kind of respect Canada and Canadians have earned around the globe, is something that all of us can be very proud of.
Canada truly is a land of opportunity. There are countless examples of the high level of achievement by both Canadian born citizens and immigrants. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that everyone will be treated fairly and equally.
On special occasions like these, we need to celebrate all of this and much more that this great country has to offer.
Happy Birthday, Canada!
(Balwant Sanghera, who has been honoured with the Order of British Columbia, is a retired school psychiatrist and community leader who lives in Richmond in British Columbia)