For many international students, one of the exciting attractions of studying in Canada, is what we call: multiculturalism. This multiculturalism offers extraordinary diversity to Canadian society adding so many languages and cultural influences to its dozens of aboriginal nations. The Canadian experience is one in which we Canadians ourselves can’t know who is a citizen or not just by looking at the person. But what is the Canada of 2021 like to live in? It helps to first understand a little bit about Canadian history and the legal system that developed from its historical experiences. The formation of Canada has taken hundreds of years and gone through many painful episodes beginning with the first attempts to take over the lands of Canada’s aboriginal nations. Long before the formal formation of Canada in 1867, the land had received newcomers from all over the world: from Asia, from the Americas, slaves in Canada and escaped slaves from the USA.
The largest numbers were colonizers from Western Europe, followed over time of impoverished Europeans and those fleeing persecution in Europe of various kinds. During the formative period there was extensive mistreatment of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, and many traumatic episodes of mistreatment of newcomers to Canada. Canada was also slow to give women equal opportunity in society, and oppressed those with different gender or sexuality identification from what was normative in Canadian society. The lessons learned from these periods and experiences led Canada to create a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The enactment 40 years ago, strengthened the earlier protections of Canada’s Bill of Rights, giving powerful constitutional protection from discrimination, prejudice or other mistreatment by virtue of one’s gender, ethnic or language group, gender identity or other fundamental qualities of one’s being. There are Human Rights Commissions across Canada as a further form of protection for anyone who feels discriminated in pursuing employment, accommodation, or other entitlements in society. All of this means, that Canada has learned plenty from its history and takes mistreatment of others seriously. The Canada of 2021 is an extraordinary representation of a peaceful framework for people with all their differences to live, work and love together. But there can be and there continues to be exceptions and incidents, sometimes terrible ones, in which the peaceful framework is shattered.
If you are choosing Canada as a place to study, and maybe even to build a career and indeed a life, it makes much sense to invest in learning about the country. The best way to advance the process of “fitting in” is pay attention to what Canadians pay attention to: what are the issues, the news, the culture of today’s Canada. With today’s technology, you can be watching Canadian documentaries, listen to Canadian musicians (not just The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Drake), and read the novels of amazing Canadian writers that weave Canada into their works like Esi Edugyan's Washington Black or Anita Raju Badami's The Hero's Walk. In fact, it’s an ideal way to prepare for your studies to start reading Canadian fiction! If you are not ready to read fiction, at least (!) you can read this article at the link below. It gives a sampling of rising Canadian writers. Maybe one of these writers will interest you enough to start reading a book or two. In that way you can more deeply appreciate Canada’s charms, its complexities, and its troubles.
If that article gets you interested, why not read another?
Click through this sampling of 10 Canadian writers with origins all across Asia.