Our differences make us prosperous

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/08/2015 (2601 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Recently, Folklorama, the biggest and longest running multicultural festival in the world wrapped up.

For two weeks, Winnipeggers were able to travel the world without leaving home. The 43 pavilions offered food and drink, entertainment, and cultural displays. For two weeks, Winnipeggers celebrated multiculturalism. Visiting several pavilions made me realize how blessed we are to live in Canada.

Living together with people from many different backgrounds is something that Canadians do naturally. We work and live with people of all races, religions and cultures. This is our everyday normal.

My husband and I host foreign students during the summer months. Each summer, we are reminded that Canada is a unique country — a cultural mosaic. Multiculturalism is one aspect of Canadian life that surprises and impresses our visitors.

However, there is a dark side to this country. Racism exists. We cannot pretend otherwise. It is perhaps human nature to fear what is different. Ironically, in our city, it is Aboriginal people who endure the harshest prejudice. We must remember that First Nations people existed in this country long before any of us, or our ancestors arrived. We must understand that as Canadians, we all came from somewhere else.

I often think about the courage required to start anew in a different country. My own mother was 21 years old when she arrived in Winnipeg one very cold February day in 1950. She arrived from war-torn Europe with nothing, but was happy to settle in a peaceful place. She did not know the language, but she was young, in love, and determined to make a new life in a new land.    

My parents often struggled to make ends meet. They worked hard to provide a good life for my brother, my sister, and myself. They stayed true to their culture, but embraced life in this new country.
I am a first generation Canadian. I will never forget my ancestral roots, but I am fiercely Canadian. I am so thankful that my parents choose this amazing country as their new home.

In the next few days, look around you. Imagine the stories behind the people you meet. Realize that they have chosen this country as their home, and that many of them are struggling to adapt to this new life. Try to welcome newcomers. Put your fear and ignorance aside and realize that it is our differences that make Canada such a prosperous country. Let’s learn to celebrate the spirit of Folklorama in everyday life.

Joanne O’Leary is a community correspondent for Riverbend.

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