It is no secret that Canada is a special place for all Canadians. In the recent months, we have had the fortune to have political stability in an ever so changing world while maintaining the credibility of being a truly free and genuine people. Not to mention our distinct home and native land, what Canada possesses in natural wonders, is and should always be one our most prized accomplishments. While the rest of the world seems to be battling these changing times, I must say from what I have observed Canadians have done an amazing job at embracing change and will continue to do so no matter what comes our way.
To sum it up, Canada has spirit, and with America facing some difficult political decisions, Canada may have adopted the image of the American Dream. While the States closed their borders to some countries, Canada opened their doors to many Syrian refugees, some of which are now thanking Trudeau for the immense contribution and service that has been provided, which I believe is definitely earned.
I remember being in high school when some of the first Syrian refugees stepped foot into our great country, through social media I saw the tears fall down mother’s faces because their family was finally in a safe country, and I saw the fathers shaking hands with other men, celebrating and thanking them for allowing them a second chance. It really did inspire hope in my heart for humankind. With all the bad that happens in the world and all the terrors the world faces day to day, something good happened on December 10th, 2015. Something I have ceased to forget.
I was extremely proud of my country. And it was the first time I felt it in a very grand way. We opened our doors to help 25,000 people, and the whole world will view Canada as a leader. Simply amazing. With my father being aboriginal from plains, he educated me about the activities and the massive effects of residential school, so I was also aware of Canada’s past, but this made up for it in my books.
To my surprise the next day I was sitting in the cafeteria at our school, and I overheard people discussing the actions of the previous day. I distinctly remember this one part of the conversation: “Check Twitter, people are pissed about Syrian refugees taking Canadian jobs, hell I am.”
It took one sentence for me to lose hope once again.
All I could think about was how can Canadians be angry about jobs being taken away. The larger the population, means larger the labour force, and more production means an increase in long-term GDP growth, in turn it will eventually generate more jobs. But even worse, how could Canadians not be proud of what their country has done for people like you and me, people who had jobs and families and lives that they had to leave to start a new one.
All this prompted me to check Twitter, where I saw a disgusting amount of Tweets angry about the job steal. I deleted Twitter and decided to look the other way.
I still have yet to meet a Syrian immigrant, but when I do I will welcome them home. However, I did meet a Singaporean immigrant, where I did get to tell her welcome home. This is her story.
Her name is Florence Yap. I met her while working a couple shifts at a McDonalds in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. I was returning to the restaurant as a manager after leaving in August to attend university, and I got in the lineup to test the how the restaurant was performing. I walk up to the counter and Florence said “Goodmorning young man, you look so handsome today! What can I get for you?”. After the flattering comment that went straight to my ego, I was impressed by the amazing service and her charisma. I kept her name in my mind and made a mental note to find out who hired her (she actually transferred from a different restaurant).
The next day, after performing some routine duties. I noticed she was on her break, so I saw the perfect opportunity to connect with her. She invited me to sit down with her in the breakroom, and she had two pieces of bread that she put peanut butter on and folded it in half.
She immediately offered one of her two pieces of bread.
That was all she had to eat for the rest of the day. I asked her where she was from, and of course she said Singapore. I explained that I was thinking about going on exchange there in a few years, after that she really perked up and encouraged me to follow through with it, and it an experience that would create some great connections for a business student. I asked her why she left Singapore. She said,
“I actually have been to Canada many times before deciding to move here. I was here on vacation many times. I just love how the grass is green and the people are so nice. I was thinking about moving to Australia, but it was too hot and dry, and I visited New Zeland, however it just didn’t feel like home.”
The home part was the section that led me to remember Justin Trudeau telling the first Syrian refugees welcome home. She continued,
“Canada is the place for me, I prayed for God to open a door for me to come here, and He did, it took three years, but it happened.”
At this moment, I was astonished by the quality of her English. She spoke with more poise than I do that’s for sure. This prompted me to ask if she ever missed Singapore, she said,
“No not really, my parents passed away and so did my husbands. My brothers and sisters are all grown up, I’ve been there my whole life so there is no reason to go back.”
I can’t explain the amount of emotion that was in her voice and on her face. I will try to explain but it won’t do her justice. Her heart was pouring out her house, the amount of love she posessed surrounded her like a protective bubble. Never before have I experienced something like it. The next question I asked was the most important. “Why did you choose McDonald’s?”
“I didn’t choose McDonald’s, McDonald’s chose me. I was a nurse director back in Singapore, I went to school in Australia and I really loved my job. I led a team of nurses, was responsible for hiring them and taking care of them. That’s what I miss about Singapore. When I came to Canada, my immigration process took three years, and usually it only takes one. But I had to take multiple English tests and I scored high on all of them. In Singapore English is the primary language, the only time nurses use our dialect is to speak to patients that cannot speak English. But other than that at work it was always in English between nurses and doctors. Anyway when I came over they told me I had to go back to school for twenty-five thousand dollars. I wanted to but we just don’t have the money. So I cried every day for a good few months, and I asked God just to close the door. Close all the doors to nursing. Eventually, he led me to McDonalds.”
I want that to sit with your for a little bit.
I want you imagine, moving to somewhere and everything you learnt and sacrificed for to be irrelevant in another place. She explained,
“I don’t know how Canadian anatomy is any different to someone from Singapore. But apparently, it is. This was the hardest part about moving to Canada, but I am here and I still love it.”
Her optimism, despite all the previous money and time she had spent on learning a skill that instantaneously became obsolete when she went through a man-made border custom, is truly inspiring. If I got my business degree and went to another country to find out that business operates in a different way and I would have to work where my skills wouldn’t be used, would be devastating to me. Yet she said this all with the most caring smile on her face. She was even proud to work at McDonald’s because she got to help people every day, and make their day by calling them sweetheart and giving them a coffee every order or two. She went on to say how no job is unimportant. Or lower than another. Or less significant.
Eventually her break was over, and she went back to helping people. And I sat in that break room. Thinking. Thinking about how I am so fortunate to be born in the country I’m in, even though it still yields some systematic flaws. But I couldn’t shake the words that she prayed for all of her nursing opportunities to cease existing. I can’t believe she was qualified to save my life, yet she was working for a kid like me.
When I think about true Canadians. I think about the genuine and friendly people. People that will open their arms up to people and let them in when they have no place to go. If I needed Florence’s help ever, she would do it. Just like she offered me a piece of her bread, she would have my back, a stranger’s back, no matter what. That is a True Canadian.
I’m sure Florence isn’t the only one. I hope Syrian refugees aren’t having the same problems, even though they may be. I can’t fix this issue right now, but I will one day. Because Canadians are hurting, and I don’t believe it is right. I remember December 10th 2015 as the day I was disappointed a some Canadian, and now I will remember December 20th 2017 as the day I realized I could do something about it.
Florence, I hope that this opens doors for you and many others. Thank you for letting your light shine through and teaching me what it means to be a True Canadian.
This Canadian has your back.