The Race: Chinese-Canadian, Part 13

1) How do you define yourself racially or ethnically and why is it important to you?

Chinese-Canadian or Canadian-born Chinese. My partner is German-Canadian. We’ve been together over 20 yrs.

2) Where do you live? If you have ever moved, whether to another city or the other side of the world, please tell us when and where, and the ways the cultural differences between the places shaped or made you think about your identity.

I’m in Calgary, a city of over 1.3 million people in Alberta, a province of Canada. This city is a big contrast to Vancouver and Toronto where I also lived for over 30 years. These cities have higher proportions of Asian-Canadians who can be quite vocal. Calgary is still quite conservative in areas of social justice, which includes race relations. This means far more subdued self-expression. I grew up not far from Toronto: Waterloo had a German-Mennonite base which throws Canada’s largest Oktoberfest annual festival. I had German-Canadian classmates who proudly wore their dirndls and lederhosen during Oktoberfest week. I thought every city had traditional Mennonites, and discovered I was wrong when I moved to Toronto. I learned about local Mennonite history when I was 13, long before I learned about Chinese-Canadian history in my final year biketo-work-vancouver-fall2009in high school. Prior to that, the curriculum was still stuck in British colonial history and the French-Canadians. As I grew up, I noticed my loss of Chinese fluency; the kind of food I ate at home, which was not steak and potatoes; and a nonEuropean family history. It was a revelation when I moved to Toronto in my 20s and felt less conspicuous with more Asian faces in the crowd. I participated in Chinese-Canadian community events, amassed a book collection of Asian-Canadian and American authors, and volunteered for five years with Asianadian, a literary magazine that specialized in Asian-Canadian issues and experiences. I met and was inspired by other volunteer writers and organizers from various Toronto ethnocultural groups who had a strong bold voice. I left the magazine to volunteer for a national Chinese-Canadian organization on race relations and immigrant matters. In the 1980’s, the Chinese Canadian National Council was led by a few young, inspiring volunteer board members in law, medicine and social work. They are community leaders today in Toronto and through them, I learned to find my voice to speak up and be less afraid.

3) How diverse was the neighborhood and school you grew up in?

We were the only nonwhite family on the street, downtown. I grew up quite aware that less than 25 students out of 2,000 were of Asian descent in high school – 1/5 of them my siblings. Very few blacks and East Indians also when I was a teen.

4) When did you first become conscious of your race or ethnicity?

First day in kindergarten. I was shocked to discover I didn’t know any English. I had spoken only Toishanese, a dialect not very well known nowadays. During the first few months of school, some white boys threw stones at me, tried to trip me and called me “Jap”. I didn’t know why they were being cruel. For a few weeks, I had nightmares of being chased. The first three years of school, I received in-school English as a Second Language support, which added to the vague feeling of being an outsider. So I was very shy. The lack of confidence to speak and present before groups did not truly dissipate completely until I was well into my career – in my 30’s! I am quite different now than when I was in university. I realize that though I was born in Canada, my early years have helped me to empathize with the struggles of immigrants. Now I’m in reverse. My spoken Chinese has degraded so much that I cannot communicate in a deep, meaningful way with my mother. I did have some very good white friends even though they couldn’t completely understand the cross-cultural challenges since they did not have immigrant parents and bilingual communication problems at home.

5) Do you consciously gravitate to certain company? Are you more comfortable, more at home around people of your own ethnicity? Have you observed a social or behavioral tendency in your own people group you would rather not perpetuate?

For the past three decades, I have gravitated to people who share my interests, activities and values rather than seek relationships primarily along ethnic-racial lines. Earlier in life, I did actively seek out some friendships within the comforts of ethnicity. I wanted to understand my own identity – what things unite us and distinguish us. The Chinese-Canadian communities in all the big cities where I’ve lived are huge and highly diverse. Metro Toronto alone has over 400,000 residents of Chinese descent. Their families no longer come from the same southern province my parents and other Chinese immigrants did from the 1800’s to early 1960’s.

As for preconceptions, you have the typical academic or technically oriented Asian-Canadian. I tell people my math skills are limited, borne out of sheer need for survival in jobs that require interpreting basic management data. What would you expect of an English literature university grad? I avoided math courses in my final year of high school. That’s when my parents realized I was not like my siblings who did have stronger mathematical skills and did their university degrees in the hard sciences. I was the teen who stuffed in as many art courses as possible in school, wrote poetry and loved literature. Most likely my creative tendencies are reflected in my blog. Obviously not all people within an ethnicity will fit the mold.

6) Tell us a little about your family, the generations who first came to America.

My great-grandfathers, coincidentally on both sides, worked in Canada and the U.S. for several years in the early 1900’s. They went back to their families in China when they could. The federal Chinese Immigration Act in North America barred Chinese men from bringing their wives and children to Canada and the U.S.. Both countries feared being run over by the Chinese and worried about job competition for whites. After building the national railroads for both countries, the only type of work the Chinese could get were in laundromats and restaurants. The law affected Chinese family structure and family.

Chinese-American and Chinese-Canadian soldiers and nurses died for Canada and the U.S. during WW II even though they could not vote at the time. Their allegiance and sacrifice turned Parliament in Canada and Congress, and the Chinese were eventually granted the right to vote – just a few years after my father immigrated to Canada. My mother was a picture bride. Met my father for the first time when she got off the plane in Toronto. They were married within a week. I’m the eldest of six. Two of my siblings married Caucasians.

7) Are your most meaningful relationships with people of your own ethnicity?

My most meaningful relationships are not restricted to my own ethnicity but certainly my family was instrumental in shaping my identity in my earlier years.

8) How much does racial affinity give you a sense of belonging compared to a shared faith or interest? Where do you feel the greatest ease and connection?

Racial likeness isn’t enough. I connect better if I shared a passion like cycling or art as well as cultural-life experiences like food, tradition and personal values. About 60% of my home meals are Asian-based though I stopped eating rice over five years ago to stave off Diabetes 2.  My circle of friends is moderately diverse. After spending time last week with a Japanese woman visiting our city, I realized that my closest, long-standing nonwhite friends were all of Chinese descent. So for the past five decades after living in big Canadian cities, I’ve never really known anyone well with family roots in Korea, Vietnam, etc. It’s all been just superficial, pleasant working relationships with others so far. But for me, friendships last because of happenstance, trust, empathy and the right vibe.

9) How did you set out to secure a sense of acceptance and belonging in social contexts, especially if you have faced hurtful experiences?

I found solo activities I enjoy which allow me to explore, destress, grow in skill, so that I wouldn’t depend on acceptance according to someone else’s standards. I first wanted to satisfy what I felt was right for myself. I tend to distance myself or just ignore others, often strangers, who have been hurtful or overly negative. It helps a lot to have a set of great friends who have known me a long time. Life is short and my energy is limited. I have also found solace in writing poetry and doing art on my own – creative channels and antidotes for loneliness.

10) Do you feel it is not fully possible or even imperative to shed all racial stereotypes and judgments?

I can shed my own judgments if I stop and reexamine my own biases and perceptions. I can’t say though that I’m conscientious enough.

11) What has struck you the most in working through this exercise? Any closing thoughts on race and identity you would like to share?

The write-up raised a curious point that I haven’t explored such a pertinent part of my life on my blog. I haven’t completely figured out if I want to spend time and energy on racism, stereotyping, cross-cultural conflicts and pain.  It has been a long journey in learning how to stand by my own identity and voice in the most authentic way. The journey is not over.

Is there mercy when there is hate and war in this world? Sometimes it means immigrating to a completely different country to lose personal biases or historic influences. Or it takes the 2nd, 3rd generation being raised by parents with healthier, more conscious attitudes. Since my parents did not directly experience the atrocities of the Japanese army in China, they don’t have the historic negativism toward the Japanese.


Jean at Cycle Write Blog

75 thoughts on “The Race: Chinese-Canadian, Part 13

  1. Thank you for this Jean! I was born and raised in Toronto (still live here) and I certainly have noticed the shift in the Chinese population here. I too found that in grade school there weren’t many Asian or black students. It’s taken time, but certainly Toronto has grown and it’s reputation as having quite a diverse make up is quite solid. I certainly notice it when I travel to other parts of North America or Europe. Coming back to Toronto means coming back to a kaleidoscope of cultures…and that is very comforting to me.

    “I can shed my own judgments if I stop and reexamine my own biases and perceptions.” I love this line, and has so many functions and purposes. For me to shed my own judgement, I need to be willing to take a deep hard look at myself. It’s so easy to fall into stereotypes, even when we have had meaningful, loving and strong relationships with so many people of different races and cultuers. What does that speak to? Tough question, but it bears examing.

    Certainly, in the end, defining one’s life through the lens of ethnicity isn’t always easy. As you mentioned, it’s easier to find connections through shared passions and interests. Having like culture doesn’t make automatic friendships, but certainly there is a shared descendency that gives an almost automatic, unspoken kinship.

    Thank you for this, and thank you Diana for sharing Jean with us all 🙂


    • In my opinion, Toronto is more diverse than Vancouver. Toronto has a very large black community. Blacks in Vancouver are still few and far between as local residents. I’ll be visiting Toronto soon since most of my family (and extended) still live there.

  2. Well, in a nutshell… My heritage is from the country now known as Pakistan. It was once part of India, as was (some believe) Afghanistan. I was born in a small town called Ferozepore, and I have moved cities and homes about 20 times. I have lived in 4 countries. I am Indian. Very Indian. And, I am from Punjab. The state of Punjab. I speak English, Hindi, Mandarin (though I have forgotten a lot of it), and a bit of Punjabi. I love the mountains and cold weather.
    And, folks think I am eccentric, and a bit of a loner!

      • I live in India now. Which did I enjoy best? Good question. I loved my childhood in England, though I doubt I would want to live there now. Same goes for China. While I consider China to be my second home, maybe I would live in Singapore, if I were not living in India. Singapore is a boring tourist destination, but a great place to live…

      • China? I do love the country, and I have great friends there even now. I lived there as an expat. Life as a local would be tougher. But maybe, maybe…

    • Glad to know you better (and better each time), Rajiv. =) Moved 20 times but you’re very Indian, eh? Multilingual. Love it. Which language do you think in and which lang did you first grow up speaking?


  3. Great post. I love the history you provide. So heart-breaking and hopeful at the same time. Thank you for your openness and thoughtfulness.


    • Yes heartbreak and hope, in the post –perhaps it is for more parents, particularily my mother since she can’t really deep things as she gets older to us because her children won’t understand every word and for historic separation of families.

      My mother was very lucky to have married a kind guy who treated her well when she didn’t meet him before she married my father.

  4. Hi Jean! Thanks for coming here and sharing your thoughts with us. I too am Canadian but Caucasian and have spent some time in Toronto (for both business and personal reasons) over the years. My Mum lives in Vancouver and I’ve wandered those streets observing life numerous times. As I’m sure you’re aware Calgary is the upstart “big city” in Canada and has grown very quickly with petro-dollars. This is the first time in recent history that Canada has had a city develop that way. You said: ” Calgary is still quite conservative in areas of social justice, which includes race relations. This means far more subdued self-expression. ” That sounds suspiciously politically correct to me, could you expand on that statement? Also, are you comfortable telling us what us brought you to Calgary and what area of employment you persue? I ask because I know many Asians who would much rather live/work in Toronto or Vancouver and find Calgary lacking in tolerance and acceptance. It has the reputation of a rough-neck town. Could you make any suggestion as to how that point could be addressed? -what programs, attitudes and perspecives would need to change to increase racial tolerance?

    Your final comments on war and mercy and Japan in China struck me. You know that topic was not even taught in our education system when I grew up? As an adult I discovered the history behind the massacre at Nanking and the other atrocities that the Japanese perpetrated in China and other Asian countries. It blew my mind. Between 1910 and 1945 the Japanese killed over 30 million Asians, many civilians, and many without even a declaration of war. They slaughtered and raped women and children and took delight in torturing, maiming and causing pain for no reason. I expound on this, which you would know better than I, to make the point that this information caused a great anger and hatred to build in me towards the Japanese culture that not only permitted this but officially sanctioned it. It’s not common knowledge in Canada. I would be surprised if it was not a topic that caused you great distress and anger – and I assure you that is totally normal. That culture cannot ever be allowed to occur again, regardless of the costs. Still I believe that most individuals can, and are, against such actions by any country or persons. As the world grows more integrated, I think we will see more tolerance and a willingness to accept diversity as a powerful positive force. Could you comment on how you have seen racial diversity employed positively in your lifetime? And what specific changes would you like to see in the future that embrace diversity and reduce enmity between races?

    Thank you again Jean, for sharing your life experiences with us. Your openness and thoughfulness have added a great deal to this discussion of race that Diana has initiated.

    • Since I am Canadian, my whole life has been spent in Canada, schooled completely in Canada and hence, wouldn’t have spent much energy and time trying to understand all the complex, tragic events in WWII in Asia.

      I was offered a job in Calgary. My reason is so common in our city since Calgary is Canada’s fastest growing city –for now. People move here primarily for jobs. I haven’t met anyone yet who moved here for lifestyle unless they lived elsewhere in Alberta or to join up with family members.

      For tourism dollars, there is a tendency for people within and outside of Calgary to distinguish it differently than Toronto or Vancouver –via its history (prairie /cowboy/ranchland/rodeo activities, RCMP, etc.), some of its politics which has for the past few decades been Conservative, etc. As for the so-called roughness /redneck : the “rough” part can’t be no more different than other areas of Toronto and Vancouver.

      In my humble opinion change in Calgary, has been helped a lot by other Canadians and immigrants who have moved from other parts of the world. They have brought into the city new needs and perspectives to pull Calgary from its prairie box mentality.

      The advertising for the Calgary Stampede, Tourism Calgary, etc., …it doesn’t feature much its growing non-white local population much in its imagery. So start there. Then in terms of the non-profit groups, look at the board of directors and senior management who shape their organzational plans, programs, policies

      Just my take.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. As an American, there’s no knowledge of Canadian history past American independence. I guess that’s why I just figured it was a bunch of fur traders, loggers, mounties, Eskimos, and gold prospectors. Shame on me. I found it interesting that there was Chinese immigration in Canada going back that far and that they also put restrictions on the influx. Did the Chinese in Canada also work on the railroads, primarily?

    I was also surprised to hear that Chinese didn’t have voting rights until after WWII. Was this a citizenship issue? Were Chinese barred specifically from voting or obtaining citizenship?

    I like to think of myself as pretty knowledgeable, but this was eye opening! Goes to show that history books won’t teach you everything. Thanks, Jean!

    • Your impressions of early Canadian history does have a lot of truth. The Chinese in Canada were also prospecting for gold during the gold rush in British Columbia before building the Canadian Pacific Railway. The rest who were men worked in laundries and restaurants.

      Yes, by federal law, the Chinese living in Canada permanently which includes their children, could not vote until 1947. As for their citizenship, they were citizens. The Chinese entering the country to immigrate at the ports had to pay a head tax of $500.00. This tax was imposed by the Canadian government at that time. A great uncle paid this tax in the late 1920’s. A lot of money.

      • Wow! This is mind blowing! I am shocked at how difficult Canada made it for Chinese to integrate almost half way into the 20th century. It’s a revelation because a friend of mine is the child of two immigrants that came to Toronto in the early 70’s, yet he loved saying, “Canada would let a 3-legged dog immigrate, if it could.” Obviously, this wasn’t always the case.

  6. Well stated and thoughtful answers. I particularly liked your statement, “I first wanted to satisfy what I felt was right for myself. ” Art can perhaps provide the foundation for knowing oneself and then moving forward to embrace others.

  7. Pingback: From Race Around the World Series: Chinese-Canadian. Part 14 | Cycle Write Blog

  8. Another thought-provoking and eye-opening post!
    Once again, I applaud the initiative for this series and the honesty of the people who answer the questions.
    “Sometimes it means immigrating to a completely different country to lose personal biases or historic influences.”
    It has certainly opened my eyes and heart to the vast diversity of the world.
    Thank you again, Diana.

    • I should say get rid of some biases when we immigrate to a completely different country. Sometimes sheer survival forces a person to deal with the new present environment. Forget the past.

  9. Another interesting contribution. My wife’s family migrated from Europe as war refugees from Hungary. They had no English language skills on arrival in Australia and while people were kind to them they felt like they didn’t belong and years learning skills and adjusting to another culture were hard years.

    • Nowadays there so much information on the ‘Net to learn about other countries, their ways and requirements. But all the information is still no substitute for knowing the language of the new country. It’s the hardest thing to master, in my opinion. Language fluency is the passport to deepening understanding of culture and hopefully improved social relationships on an even ground.

      • I believe that’s true, language is the beginning of understanding. However you really have to be born in a culture to fully comprehend all the little things that mark you as a son or daughter of the nation. That applies regardless of your ethnic origin. I’ve heard it said Australia will eventually be the first Eurasian nation. That is sorting itself out now here.

  10. I love reading about these kinds of experiences. Thank you Jean for sharing yours! I can relate to the kindergarten story in a small way. Apparently a kid called me “chop suey” and I cried all the way home. My mom’s reaction? She laughed. Thanks mom! 😛

  11. really nice post – 🙂 and I like how you note the journey is not over – 🙂
    “It has been a long journey in learning how to stand by my own identity and voice in the most authentic way.”
    have a nice day. 🙂

  12. You didn’t know your life and home were so interesting. =) I learned so much from you, Jean. And yes – you can number me among the ignorant Americans who know nothing of Canadian geography. So this post was a crash course on many aspects of Canadian culture. Mennonites are wonderful (yes, a sweeping generalization) and that is quite interesting you learned more about their history than your own growing up.

    I mentioned in my own story here that I too had rec’d ESL services, though I think it was for a season in my first year of schooling which was first grade. Funny. Never say never: you can go from ESL to being a writer. I could feel from your story the nakedness you felt as the odd one out when you were a young child among peers and the hunger to know the Asian side of yourself better with the books you collected once you felt the permission of your surroundings to pursue yourself.

    The rest of the history was for the most part new to me as well – telling you, I’ve never felt so ignorant and dumb as I have running this series. The Chinese who perished fighting for N America while yet still unvalidated in their citizenry reminds me of black Americans. Picture bride: you took the cake with that one.

    Your closing thoughts on how time and distance allow us to extricate ourselves from resentment against our oppressors is worthy of thought. A lot of it becomes simple ignorance. I don’t really know the horrific details of what the Japs did to my grandparents and their parents and their friends. Those who HAVE had had those tales passed down to them are still bitter, though they are not consciously ruled by the anger.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful, glowing intro on me and my work on your board. You’ve plenty enriched our storytelling.

    • And I didn’t even mention about my mother being a picture bride, until you were almost done editing the post!

      I have a long time Mennonite friend –she has a white cap. There are different sects. But she drives a car, but always wears a dress, never works for banks (but has been a cashier). They run a used bookstore in rural area in Waterloo County area.

      I am not a believer, non-Christian but I have attended some of their church services. I recall going to a high school graduation picnic at a Mennonite school. The girls were playing softball, running around in their floral print dresses, pigtails flying and white caps on. All the boys sitting on the face with their straw hats, stared at me: it was their rare time probably meeting an Asian person up close.

    • I appreciate you as host blogger and editor, your diligence and generosity to have this series, HW. Though your questions are simple, they do require us to reflect and revisit our own views from time to time.

      As for having lived through ESL, it helped me realize that at least among Chinese-language speakers how to tutor others (ie. some relatives) on common phonetic and enunciation problems when learning English –consonant blends such as fr, cl and some vowels.

      • What you discovered in teaching ESL to the Chinese is very interesting bc I came up – over 10 yrs ago out here in CA – with some target sounds Koreans needed work on, given the phonemes they are used to and not. And the appreciation certainly helps make it rewarding, Jean. Thanks for the good word.

  13. Very interesting Jean and I was happy to read more about you and your cultural background and get to know you better. I can so relate with the feelings you had when you were in kinder garden. I felt the same as I had spent 5 years in Lebanon and realized I didn’t know French when I arrived to Canada. The other children were also mean to me and teacher was not of much help. This post has raised an important question for me too and my blog: should I discuss more the issues of stereotyping and racism according to my personal experience. Food for thoughts…

  14. Rita did you know any English before learning French? Yea, I think immigrants in Quebec have in tougher because of the official French language policy. I have met Chinese-Canadians (or allophones, non-English/non-French speakers) from Montreal who were fluent in 3 languages – Chinese (or Vietnamese), French and English. A lot of immigrant parents eventually (if not already) realize the socio-economic benefits of also being fluent in English as a Canadian –for purposes of career mobility/job opportunities, business networking across the country, etc.

    I would look forward learning more about how things were in Quebec for you, Rita when you were young.

    Just to let people know, Canada has 2 official languages: English and French. Different Canadian provinces mandate that schoolchildren take mandatory French lessons for a few years. I did…I also stopped taking it after lst yr. in high school. Instead I took 3 yrs. of Latin –we had a dynamic high school teacher.

    Then I had to take French ..twice at university in order to meet a mandatory foreign language course requirement for my English lit. degree. As a result of all this, there are some basic French words that have been helpful when travelling in Quebec and France for me.

  15. Jean. I read this with much interest, thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s interesting to hear you say that as you grew up, you weren’t as fluent in your mother tongue as you once were. I sympathise with you. I used to be quite good at speaking Cantonese as a kid but as I got older, I watched less Cantonese dramas that my parents did, listened to less Asian radio and started staying home less and less. On one hand, I was curious to explore a world outside of my own culture, and the price I paid was losing a part of my roots. On the other hand, I learned so much more about other cultures and people of different races (at university).

    Another thing I found particularly interesting is that you are no where near shy in exploring your solo creative passions and activities. To which I applaud you for. I’ve come across many Asian friends who want to pursue something creative, but are always embarrassed to do so in fear of “losing face” in front of their traditional parents. So to hear you proudly do what you want to do is very encouraging.

    Once again, thank you for sharing your story.

    • Appreciate your comments, Mabel. Well, pursuing my art interests and poetry writing (which I haven’t done in ages) took a lot of resistance against my parents as a teenager. It meant so much to me at the time– I remember I used to argue long and hard,occasionally in tears.

      But you know, I think deep down good parents know the strengths of each child. I remember they relented and bought a sable watercolour and oil paint brushes for me which I loved and used. Sable hair brushes were and continue to be expensive! As a teen, I did win some school and local contests for art and poetry which provides proof to parents…

      • I just stumbled across this fusion- Asian-Canadian or similar based web-magazine/blog that some folks might like or even contribute their writings:
        No, I don’t know anyone affilitated with it. It’s just Vancouver based.That’s all.

      • That was very nice of your parents to buy you those brushes. I guess parents are parents – they all want their children to be happy. I do think deep down, many Asian parents want their children to stick to Asian traditions, values and mentality of some sort and stick to the stereotype, at least remember them. I reckon a lot of Asians born and/or raised in the West never ever forgot our heritage. It’s actually quite impossible with so many non-Asians questioning us about our background and “where are we from” so often.

  16. Jean, this was a lovely interview, D, has done it again, finding such a plethora of different people groups who can speak to their experiences. Not unlike Marcus, I didn’t learn very much Canadian history growing up in the US. It was interesting to read about the history of the Chinese in Canada. I also have Mennonite friends and know a little about that culture, but from a US perspective. I have a friend the was raised Amish-Mennonite, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I was fascinated by how they lived. I can also, sympathize with you regarding your kindergarten experience, but throwing stones, wow, kids can be horrible!!! Thank you for your interesting perspective and for the education this is so needed. Now I’m off to your page to see more about you. 🙂 PS. This statement you made was powerful, “Racial likeness isn’t enough. I connect better if I shared a passion like cycling or art as well as cultural-life experiences like food, tradition and personal values.” This is so true, it has to be more than that we look alike.

    • Shazza, hope you find more to learn about Canada in my blog. I’ve never been to the Amish-Mennonite areas in Pennsylvania, Illinois yet. As of a decade ago, there are 10 different Mennonite-Amish sects in Waterloo County. There are still some Old Order Mennonites in the rural areas. My friend and her hubby cater to their book business to that group also. Her husband is from an Old Order Mennonite which she herself found quite strict. Anyway, guess what the most popular book the Old Order Mennonites like for their children? Little House on the Prairies series. 🙂

      By the way, Shazza, may your daughter be happy in her marriage.

  17. I like your observation that it takes more than ethnic / racial likeness to create a deep bond or friendship. I suspect it echoes the experience of people who live in multi-cultural societies everywhere, especially if they’re the minorities. When I studied in Canada, as an Indian, I sought out others from the region I came from. But I found that this immediate, clinging instinct didn’t lead me to satisfying friendships. The bonds that deepened and grew always came from a certain vibe & shared interests.

  18. I truly enjoyed reading your post. I was reminded of friends at Octoberfest in Kitchener/Waterloo in the fall, people I met when I moved to Toronto to work. Growing up in Quebec, I found Toronto quite boring as a child but when I moved in 1997 I was pleasantly surprised and relieved. We used to chuckle that Toronto rolled up their sidewalks at midnight while we in Quebec party way later. But I have to say it is thanks to the influx of so many cultures that has finally changed that “beige” drab colour of that city and given it life . I moved back to Montreal a few years ago but I do miss Toronto especially for that feel of acceptance and being part of so many cultures. I only visited Vancouver a few times and loved it as well…Calgary…hmmm, never went but I have family who tried to make it there but they are half French and they just did not feel at home. It may have changed since. Working on an anonymous helpline, I do hear from youths who share their struggles as first generation immigrants. I love this section A Holistic Journey has hosted so we can learn more, speak to each other and thank you so much for teaching and speaking to me today. Blessing, Oliana xx

    • There are some French-Canadian towns north of Calgary. It’s more historic –with increasing English-speaking. I had no clue until I moved to Calgary. While there is open friendliness, there is a slight hard edginess in Calgary that is different from Vancouver and Toronto. And it’s a edginess that is not always admirable, afraid to speak out, be radical for a very long time without being hammered by some locals who don’t want things to change. A good example: to become long-time environmentalist spokesperson it means dealing with the oil and gas companies, who are the economic engine of the province. (sad to say that’s not good long term for Alberta’s economy. It won’t last forever.)

  19. Hello – this is quite an interesting and insightful post. I came to Canada (Ottawa) a little over a decade ago and was quite surprised to learn that I was a “visible minority”. I had never encountered that term before. It’s been quite a journey, but I have grown and adapted. Thanks for your insights!

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