Today marks the 153rd anniversary of the birth of the Dominion of Canada or simply put, Canada Day. Probably for the first time ever in these many years, Canada Day 2020 is being celebrated virtually from coast-to-coast as we deal with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
However, this does not mean Canada Day is cancelled. While there will not be the trademark citizenship ceremonies or large festive gatherings and we get to only watch virtual fireworks on our smartphones this year, it does not mean that we cannot enjoy a cold Canadian beer, watch some of our country’s best talents perform on the CBC, and re-connect with our friends and family online.
In fact, I think the nature of this year’s celebration also gives us an invaluable opportunity to be introspective about what this day means for each one of us. On that note, I want to share some reflections on what Canada has come to mean for me over the years – that of a land of promise, passion, and potential.
I was six years old when I first came to Canada by myself in 1985 to spend the summer with my father’s eldest sister (whom I affectionately called “Mami”) and the rest of my extended family in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For a six-year-old boy, that summer felt like a dream. Under Mami’s motherly care, I vividly remember spending my days and nights playing with my cousins, watching soap operas with my grandpa, digging into BBQs and twinkies, and exploring an entirely differently world that seemed so much bigger and more friendly than where I came from in London, United Kingdom. Little did I know then that this summer was going to be a prelude of what was to come. I eventually immigrated to Canada a year later, and a few years after that Amma and my siblings joined me in the Peg as Appa decided to keep working overseas to provide for us. As with many immigrants to Canada, my parents saw in this country a land that promised them and their children so much more than the countries they were leaving behind – safety, success, and ultimately a sense of belonging.
Fast forward a few years later, after spending nearly two decades working with Appa on his many business ventures in different parts of the world, I returned to Canada again – this time to Toronto. I was in my mid-30s and ready to take on new and interesting challenges. In the years since making the 6ix my home, I have become an educator, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, a philanthropist and community changemaker, and I even briefly ran for elected office and dabbled in stand-up comedy though not at the same time! Above all else, during these years I also met and married the love of my life and became the father of two amazing little humans. These years illustrate for me what Canada means to a great many people of my generation – that this is a land where your passion really can pave your path and you are truly the master of your own fate.
I turn 41 in a few days. This year has perhaps been one of the most turbulent periods in all our lives. From the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 to the global protests against anti-Black racism and colonial-era slavery and the stillborn reconciliation project with our indigenous communities in whose Canada the rest of us are settlers, 2020 has exposed many fault lines in our midst. It can be easy to become despondent and pessimistic about the future. While these are difficult challenges no doubt and there is a lot of hard work on the long road ahead, I remain resolutely optimistic about the potential we have as a nation and as Canadians in rising to these challenges, together. On this Canada Day, I pledge to continue to do my part – not only for me but for the sake of Sofia and Leonardo and their generation.