It was easy. I didn’t expect it to be so, but it was.
Is it because Canada is made up of immigrant communities that are as varied and numbered as the nations that span the globe? Is it because one Canadian, regardless of their origin, enjoys the same rights and privileges as the next? Or is it just because most Canadians, by nature, are pre-disposed to being warm, friendly, welcoming, inclusive, and non confrontational? Maybe it’s a combination of all these factors – I can’t say for sure. What I do know is that this is a society that’s easy to fit into.
Though I had a ‘place’ while I lived in Malaysia, I never fully belonged – I felt ‘second class’, to put it simply. The feeling is quite the opposite here. In Canada, I know that I have as much of a chance to succeed as the next person, given the same set of opportunities. I know that the colour of my skin will not dictate my chances of earning a seat at a university, owning shares in a publicly listed company, or even my opportunity to hold the highest office of government, should I be so inclined. The economic pie is for everyone to enjoy, if they choose to participate. In Canada, I compete based on merit, while in Malaysia, a race-based quota system dictates my higher education and economic opportunities.
While Malaysia’s race based affirmative action policies might have had some merit in the early 70s as a means to calm racial tensions and foster economic equity between the races, it no longer serves Malaysia – not if it wants to be a successful multi-racial, multi-religious nation.
For a vibrant society to thrive, we must respect each other’s values, beliefs and practices without imposing it on others. In my short experience here (and I know nothing is perfect), Canada has been able to strike a good balance at preserving certain Canadian ‘values’ while welcoming the contributions of everyone.