KARACHI: “Many countries around the world are currently struggling with integrating and building a coalition in multilateral and multicultural societies. At the same time, immigrants in many parts of the world are facing issues and challenges related to acceptance. But this is where Canada has been very successful,” said the High Commissioner of Canada, Perry John Calderwood, while speaking at a gathering called by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan’s national executive committee at a local hotel here on Thursday.
The subject of his talk, ‘Building a successful diverse and inclusive society’, seemed appropriate at a time when Canada’s next-door neighbour sees migrants as a nuisance.
“Canada is not a perfect country by any means — we do have our challenges but I would like to tell you about some of our experiences because I think it is very interesting,” he said.
“More than 20 per cent of the population in Canada is foreign-born, the last figure I saw was 22 per cent. We are very much a country of immigrants and we continue to accept thousands of immigrants every year, including refugees.
Almost 1pc of our 36 million population comprises immigrants. If you visit any Canadian city today you will see lots of synagogues, Sikh temples, Christian churches. We celebrate different festivals and functions of other cultures. So the immigrants in Canada are very well-integrated in our society,” he said while adding that at present several members in their congress and senate were from Pakistan or of Pakistani origin.
“All of us enjoy exactly the same rights and freedoms regardless of how long we or our ancestors have been in the country. There are no tiers of citizenship and no second-class citizens.
“We have no political party in Canada that is against immigration,” he said.
Mr Calderwood also spoke of how his country had also made great strides in gender equality. “As an example, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet has 15 women and 15 men.” When he was asked by a journalist the reason for this, he said that ‘because it is 2015’. What he meant was that it was long overdue and we shouldn’t even be asking such a question, he said.
“Immigration in Canada until the 1960s was almost entirely from Europe. If you were a Black, Asian or a Jewish person ... you would have faced discrimination as per the law and in terms of the popular culture,” he said.
“But a number of factors contributed to Canada’s evolution from a non-diverse and intolerable society to what it is now. What helped the Canadians here was their not defining themselves in ethnic terms because they already had two languages, English and French along with nine other languages spoken in their northern part unlike other countries where there is a single language or culture and sometimes religion that defines a society.
“We also never had a rigid society,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2017