October 20, 2019

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Tennis champ is a win for immigration

Editorial

You could feel the pride pulsating across Canada on Saturday afternoon as Mississauga-born Bianca Andreescu beat higher-ranked Serena Williams in straight sets at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. The 19-year-old ignored the hype surrounding Ms. Williams; the aura of invincibility; the raucous pro-Williams crowd of 25,000 spectators; and the obvious likelihood that Serena would continue her string of Grand Slam wins by mowing down the Canadian newcomer. She focused on the task at hand — and she won.

Canada can claim a small part of her success. Her Canadian identity is no mere accident of birth. Her highly-educated Romanian parents migrated to Canada in 1994 and were well-settled in time for her birth in Mississauga in 2000. They moved back to Romania for a few years, where Bianca started playing tennis, then returned to Canada, where she caught the attention of Tennis Canada’s training program.

In our moments of modesty, Canadians should admit a person of Ms. Andreescu’s gifts, mental toughness, strength and endurance would probably rise to the top of the heap in Romania or in the United States or in any country of the world — or in any sport she chose to play. But that is just speculation. The hard fact is the Andreescus chose Canada, this country opened the door for them and now we are entitled to bask, for a moment, in her reflected glory.

You could feel the pride pulsating across Canada on Saturday afternoon as Mississauga-born Bianca Andreescu beat higher-ranked Serena Williams in straight sets at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. The 19-year-old ignored the hype surrounding Ms. Williams; the aura of invincibility; the raucous pro-Williams crowd of 25,000 spectators; and the obvious likelihood that Serena would continue her string of Grand Slam wins by mowing down the Canadian newcomer. She focused on the task at hand — and she won.

Canada can claim a small part of her success. Her Canadian identity is no mere accident of birth. Her highly-educated Romanian parents migrated to Canada in 1994 and were well-settled in time for her birth in Mississauga in 2000. They moved back to Romania for a few years, where Bianca started playing tennis, then returned to Canada, where she caught the attention of Tennis Canada’s training program.

Bianca  Andreescu’s triumph gives Canadians a moment to taste the sweet fruits of our country’s openness to the world. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press files)

Bianca Andreescu’s triumph gives Canadians a moment to taste the sweet fruits of our country’s openness to the world. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press files)

In our moments of modesty, Canadians should admit a person of Ms. Andreescu’s gifts, mental toughness, strength and endurance would probably rise to the top of the heap in Romania or in the United States or in any country of the world — or in any sport she chose to play. But that is just speculation. The hard fact is the Andreescus chose Canada, this country opened the door for them and now we are entitled to bask, for a moment, in her reflected glory.

This kind of overachieving by immigrants fits a well-known pattern. Parents move to a new country such as Canada to ensure a better future for their children. They work extremely hard, maybe start a business, push their children to succeed, ensure exceptionally good education for them and then vicariously enjoy the results their children achieve.

Not all immigrant stories follow this pattern, but the pattern is recognizable just the same. Anyone who is willing to face the difficulties and uncertainties of migration is probably a little more adventurous, a little more daring, a little more motivated, a little more self-confident than most of their neighbours.

It stands to reason the ranks of immigrants would produce more than their share of top-ranked scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, innovators — and tennis players.

Overachieving by immigrants fits a well-known pattern. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / The Associated Press files)

Overachieving by immigrants fits a well-known pattern. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / The Associated Press files)

In the U.S., in Europe and occasionally in Canada, these truths can be forgotten. Especially when large numbers of refugees turn up on the southern shores of Europe or at Mexico’s border with the U.S., there is an instinct to build a wall, keep the foreigners out. The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party continues to gain strength in Germany’s local elections. Great Britain is partway down the path to quitting the European Union in order to keep out foreigners. U.S. President Donald Trump has told non-white Democratic party women in Congress to "go back where they came from," though most were born in the U.S. and all are U.S. citizens.

Canada, which has no shared border with Mexico and no sea route from the refugee camps of Libya, has not reached these levels of anti-foreigner sentiment. Ms. Andreescu’s triumph gives Canadians a moment to taste the sweet fruits of our country’s openness to the world. The triumph is hers alone — the rest of us were not standing there on the court facing the Serena Williams onslaught.

But we’re allowed to glow with pride and keep looking for more Biancas.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

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