Asad Abdali

What is it that makes Canada so great? Is it our Tim Hortons? Our poutine? Our maple syrup? Or is it because we brought The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, and Drake to the world? Is it the fact that we have a handsome Prime Minister and not some racist, misogynistic, orange tyrant? Or is it simply because we can walk down the street and see different types of people, stores, and cultures from all over the world? One cannot simply pinpoint what it is that makes Canada so amazing but, simply put, Canada is a multicultural mosaic, a real progressive population, and a land over-flowing with opportunity, all spread throughout a luscious landscape ranging across 10 provinces and 3 territories. I have lived here for over 14 years now and I have come to cherish this place, but there were definitely times when I took all that Canada had to offer granted. However, I have realized the safety, acceptance, and opportunity that Canada provided through various experiences.
I was born In Pakistan and raised there until I was 4 years old, so I did not really remember much about it. So, when I was told that my family would be revisiting, I did not really know what to expect; I just assumed it would be like Canada, but boy was I ever wrong. Not to insult my motherland, but I noticed a few concerns there that I would never have worried about in Canada, like power inconsistencies, a clean water supply, and a major safety concern. During my stay in Pakistan my grand-parent’s house was robbed; apparently, this is quite common in Pakistan. As the robbers broke in to our house, my brave old grandfather wrestled one of them to the floor; however, he was shot in his leg alongside my uncle. The robbers only wanted to diffuse the situation and only had intentions to take possessions and money and not kill anyone. I was only seven so I was quite oblivious to the entire situation, which helped me remain calm; I helped the women and other children escape to our neighbour’s house. After the robbers rounded up whatever they considered valuable, they fled. They took objects ranging from our television to our carpet, yes, our carpet; they were clearly desperate. Regardless, we called the police and they barged in three hours later trying to apprehend the robbers, shockingly they had escaped. As you can probably tell the safety and emergency services in Pakistan are not the most efficient; later that night my dad explained to me the severity of what we had just gone through and then the fear finally set in. That day I learned to really appreciate the safety Canada provides, especially through our emergency services. Canada’s crime rate has been declining for the last two decades (Stats Canada). Also, hand guns, rifle, and shotguns are banned and all gun carriers and their weapons must be registered (RCMP); Canada’s strict gun policies allow for one of the safest environments on the globe. After returning to Canada I could sleep at night feeling safe and sound, and I have never felt that same ominous fear again. I knew that only Canada, its society, and its people could help me get over that traumatic experience and push that fear to the far depths of my mind.
As I’ve traveled the world, I realized that not everyone is as accepting as Canadians. In Canada I never really worry about discrimination because the minority here in Mississauga is almost a majority. Unfortunately, I never realized this until I visited New York. My cousins and I were driving through New York and decided to stop to visit Ground Zero, just as many tourists do. We got there and were mourning as a Caucasian American male approached my cousin and me and said to us, “I hope y’all are sorry.” We asked him what he meant by that, and that we were mourning like the rest of the people there. He responded by saying “No, I mean your people should be extra sorry for what happened here.” Obviously this ignoramus had some misconceptions about our religion, but it was clear that the situation was only going to escalate from here. My cousin, who is much older than I, started arguing with the man. Racial slurs were thrown into the mix followed by some foul language I should not repeat, but you get the idea. Eventually police were called, the situation was diluted and we were on our way. What really resonates with me till this day is that the man continued to blame the entire Islamic community of 1.6 billion people for an act of terrorism committed by a radical few. That day I came to understand that often people will judge you by the colour of your skin, your gender, your sexuality, or your religion, and there is not much you can do to really change their perspective because that is what their community has taught them. In Canada I had never felt insecure for being Muslim, and I believe that security follows through for every unique individual. A recent study revealed that Canada’s already substantially low hate crime rate decreased by a further 17% in the last year (Stats Canada), also the multiculturalism is so powerful here that 1/5 people in Canada are foreign-born (Stats Canada), the top in the G8 countries. Canada’s diversity and progressive society allows for a high degree of acceptance that allows for anyone to feel comfortable being exactly who they are.
I had taken so many perks for granted, but after being faced with another country’s harsher reality I realized that Canada was like a more g-rated version of life, where everyone is more accepting, where the society is safer, and where the land is filled with opportunity. Canada is true north, strong, and free. For many of us it is the land of opportunity that was gifted to us by our persevering parents. However, they did not realize the entirety of this gift. Being Canadian provides us with safety, opportunity, freedom of culture, freedom of religion, freedom of love, and a sense of true belonging. When people ask me where I am from I am more than proud to say that I am Canadian, and that yes, we do put gravy on fries, yes, we do hold doors for everyone, and yes, we do hate being mistaken for Americans.

Cited Resources:

“National Home Page.” Government of Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2016. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
“Police-reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2015 Police-reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2015.11 Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. Stastistics Canada, 2016. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.