The Canadian Dream

This is a speech I made in 2005 regarding the plight of immigrants in Canada. Reading it again, I see a huge parallel between our struggles and those of people with disabilities in terms of opportunities -- or the lack thereof.

Excerpt from I Too Can Be Special!, I Too Can Be Special! by Darius Andaya
"Though I learn not at someone else's timetable,
Given the chance, I will always prove that I am able,
To do things others, better capable than I can,
On my own special way, I can learn like anyone."

Immigrants ask for the same chance.

About half a decade ago, I, along with several thousand Filipinos, and several more around the world, received an invitation. On page 5 of the morning paper under the story that read, Peso plunged, ten year low, was a quarter page invitation. It was an invitation for all people with dreams and ambitions, knowledge and skills, for all those dreaming of living a life where everyone, regardless of where they were born, or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success. It’s unspoken promise resonating across the page and enticing everyone yearning for a peak at the so-called “American dream”, a taste of the bountiful western culture, a stroll along its advertised much greener pastures. It was an invitation to realize the promises depicted in Hollywood movies.

“Come, it said. Realize your dreams. Canada needs you.”

It was a personal invitation to Me! Me! Of course every other Filipinos who saw the ad thought so too. But the point was, Canada needed us.

And so we came. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, scholars, nurses, mechanics, technicians, anyone with anything to offer flocked Canada’s embassies, endured the endless lines and went through the grueling process of proving our worthiness of the Canadian promise. Many were called, but few were chosen.

Most of the chosen, were people who gave up good paying jobs, lucrative businesses, luxurious and comfortable lifestyles, just to have the honor of living and working in Canada. They were highly qualified professionals, who excelled at what they do and succeeded on their respective fields of expertise. Some of them studied from the best universities, trained using techniques and cases from US Ivy League Schools such as Harvard and Yale. These were the kinds of people Canada allowed to land on its shores.

“As long as we get approved, we’re ok.” Or so we thought.

Once here though, the promises and the dreams got blurry. Their fulfillment postponed, and for some ultimately forgotten. Suddenly, people who were once the cream of the crop on their trades are now scraping the bottom of the barrel for any work they can get. Jobs they once performed with natural ease are now as hard to come by as your favorite lottery numbers. They are not even given the chance to prove they can do the work. They are rejected just because they are newcomers.

Such was our holy grail. The ever-elusive “Canadian Work Experience”. Its not just work experience they wanted. They wanted Canadian Work Experience. But how do you get it when no one is willing to give it to you? How do you achieve the work experience when each and every one of those companies would only consider you if you have it already?

This is where the fastfood and service industry comes in. Thus, I have seen a dentist who worked for seven years at seven eleven. My friend, an engineer, a man who built some of the tallest buildings in Manila, now works at a grocery store as a stocker. Another one, a lawyer went home after working for 5 years at a burger chain, defeated, a broken man.

These men and women spent decades honing their minds, thinking those were their best assets to succeed. Yet these are the only jobs they could get. Flipping burgers, stocking cans, washing dishes: jobs that require a fraction of their knowledge, supervised by people half their age.

Of course not all immigrants stories are like this. There are the few who had families and friends here who assisted them in getting a job. There are those who were sent here by their employers. And of course there were those who by the grace of God simply lucked out just by doing the right things at the right time. Fortunately, I was one of those lucky people.

I do know however, that luck could only get me through the door. It was up to me to show what I can do, earn my employer’s as well as my co-employee’s trust and succeed in my career.

For most of us immigrants, this is all we are asking for. A chance. To be let in through the door. To let us prove our abilities. To let our light shine through once again.

I know some of you who were born Canadians are threatened by us. As if we were galactic aliens, here to consume every life force in this country, or at the least, every jobs. But we’re not. We are flesh and blood, with ambitions and goals like you do. Just as your great great grandparents did, when they first set foot on the shores of Canada. As I’ve heard, Canada was a land built from the blood and sweat of immigrants. They came from “Far and Wide” and stood on guard. They guarded such that only friends and people with noble intentions were allowed in.

We are in, we have noble intentions for this country, and now we are part of those, like you, who stands on guard for dear Canada. In a way, we are now as much a Canadian as every freedom loving, law abiding citizen of Canada. Our status may be landed immigrants, but in essence we are Canadians-in-training.

We, the new immigrants, are not asking for special favors, nor do we ask for preferential treatment. All we ask is a fair chance. Equal opportunity. I know it’s a risk some employers are hesitant to take. But that’s why we have tests. If we prove to be incapable, then let us go. But at least give us a chance.

Somewhere within us is a candle that burns bright during our successes, and dies down during our failures. At its brightest, we are able to help more people, thereby igniting their own light, which allows them to help out other people, and so on. At its lowest point, the light dims, flickers, until it is all but a tiny glowing ember.

Moving to a new country does just that; it dilutes your light until you are nothing but a glowing ember. You may have all the potential to burst into flame, but you need a gust of wind to get you started. Better yet, you need the touch of a flame from another source to get your flame going.

Now, some of you are employers, and some are thinking of becoming employers. When that time comes, you’re light will burn so bright and you will have the power to affect people’s lives. Spread some of that light our way. Give the immigrants a chance. And we’ll show you a light fueled by determination, ambition, and sacrifices. Such fuels flow eternally. The Canadian dream will remain a dream until its promise is fulfilled.

Darius Andaya Darius Andaya is a Certified ITF International Instructor and the Chief Instructor at the DSA Royal International Taekwon-Do. 604-355-0372.
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Published on July 30, 2020 11:03
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