by Al Manzano
As a Canadian-born Filipino, I’ve always felt like I lived my life straddled between two worlds – I was never really Canadian but never really Filipino either. True to my Canadian teachers, I always strived to be punctual while foregoing the bologna sandwiches for some version of rice. It was never easy being this self-aware as it often gave me a bit of an inferiority complex in many areas of my life that often stunted me from overachieving – too short to dunk a basketball, too pacific islander to skate with the best. Always running in the middle of the pack, getting lost in the mix – in a word…Ordinary.
Fortunately, two things happened; First, I grew up beyond the oversimplification of identifying myself by either individual culture; and second Canada as a whole has bloomed into a truly cultural mosaic we have all come to appreciate.
Through this time of growth, I have had the privilege of working with people’s no migrated from different countries in the churches I served with – from people who derived from the Far East to people who hailed from the land down under. More and more, I began to see people beyond the color of their skin, the tone of their accent, and the smell of their food. Rather I began to appreciate that embedded within the landscape of this cultural mosaic ran a similar theme among New Canadians I spent time with; the goal was always Canada – the land of snow, ice, universal healthcare, Wayne Gretzky…and fresh opportunities.
Let me expand this point by saying: Yes, the goal was Canada; but below the surface, were stories. Stories that were often fraught with great sacrifice, years hard work, expensive application and relocation fees, and lengthy tests of patience and prayer. It always amazed me the lengths people were willing to undergo to migrate to my home. A quick snapshot of some memorable stories were:
- The Card carrying Communist who was indicted by his home country after formally requesting the opportunity to go to school in Canada to escape the regime he felt handcuffed by;
- The successful hotelier from Central America, who sold generations worth of family properties for the opportunity to bring his children to Canada to escape the drug war;
- the Filipino mother who sacrifices years away from her children to rear the offspring of another with the ultimate dream of reuniting her family again;
- the Indian Surgeon who traded in his scalpel for a Canadian mop to leave persecution his family faced back home;
- the Cambodian accountant who flipped burgers six days a week so she can go to school five nights a week to fund Her father’s cancer treatment.
In short, they were often stories of ordinary people willing to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve their personal goals in Canada.
Many of you reading this can identify with some of these sacrifices. Many of you can remember the blood, sweat, and tears you shed for the single opportunity that awaited across the globe. Landmarks that you planted along your journey to Canada are coming back to mind as you can remember the flood of emotions you felt at certain times – when the application was accepted, the bags were packed, and you finally made it past the immigration counter and stepped onto Canadian soil. For several people, you can look back at your journey to Canada and smile because there were several moments you truly felt like there were extraordinary things happening that were transforming your ordinary life.
As a Canadian who has never felt the need to leave my country but has had the privilege of meeting hundreds upon hundreds of people who have all told me amazing stories like the ones listed above, I have one ask. Please do not look at the immigration counter as the finish line of your journey. Canada needs people who have dared to dream outside their realm of possibility, who have dipped their toes into the sea of opportunity, who have been stretched beyond comfort of their own culture – to continue to propel us forward in order to ensure that the cultural inferiority complex I felt growing up doesn’t affect the generation I am now trying to raise. Your voice, your knowledge, your experience, your motivation, your passion, and your heart is what will drive our workplaces, neighborhoods, soccer teams, churches, towns, cities…and our nation forward ultimately. We need your vitality, your spirit of hard work, your compassion for the oppressed, to ensure that everyone is represented in the boardrooms, in the lecture halls, in the coffee shops, the water coolers, and the political arenas all across this country.
With my part of the country now in a recession, we are relying heavily on people like you who have already journeyed through difficulty to bring a fresh voice and help us innovate solutions, develop ideas, start businesses, speak up for what is right, and help navigate our collective home into the future.
Earlier this year, Canada was rated the second best country in the world to live at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I would love to see Canada remain a World leader and one of the most desirable places to live, but it will take all ordinary Canadians doing extraordinary things to keep on that path. To you who consider yourselves new Canadians, I say “Welcome”! – now it’s time for us all to roll up our sleeves step out of our comfortable communities, strive to overachieve, and build the home around us an even better place to live, eh?
Allan is a passionate leader who is not afraid to paint outside the lines, a motivated speaker/teacher who wants nothing more than to instill Truth to shape future generations, and a loving father and husband who is not concerned about losing the “cool factor” just to see them smile.
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