Teachers are immigrants

I am neither an American or a Muslim. The events of the past 24 hours has struck a cord with me. As a human, we can all find something to relate with each other.

My family emigrated from Hong Kong when I was 10. We had no means to do it, just a rumour from a relative of a relative that Canada may be could be granting asylum for people without status (never came true). We lived in government housing in Hong Kong, and my parents emptied their bank account, left home with a plane ticket and hope for a better life.

We had no business immigrating to Canada. We had no money and my parents did not have any desirable skills that the Canadian government were looking for in workers. The only thing we had going for us was tenacity and hard work. We had no legal status in Canada for many years and our immigration application was basically doing everything to delay our deportation date. Meanwhile, my father immersed our family into Canada and Canadian culture (“Don’t be so loud, the Canadians talk very gently”; “You need to learn to skate and play hockey, the kids love it here”;”Study hard, don’t give them a reason to deport us”). My parents bought a house with no money and 2 mortgages just before the recession of the early 90s hoping to show Canada that we want to be Canadians really badly. My younger sister and I were beginning to integrate into Canadian culture and as each day passes, it becomes harder and harder to re-integrate back to Hong Kong. Any mistakes would mean we might have go back to a place that was more and more foreign to us.

So we thought we would be deported when my father was charged with shoplifting.

He forgot his tape measure at home. So he grabbed one off the shelf in the store to measure the wood he needed, forgot that it was still in his pocket when he walked out. A moment of forgetfulness was going to undo years of hard work and living in fear. Luckily, the client my dad was working for (Mrs. Bellamy) wrote a letter to the courts, vouching for for him and the charges were dropped. (A decade later, my father would be given a community member award by Toronto’s Chief of Police for apprehending an armed mugger)

As a teacher, I have taught many students of many backgrounds all with their own stories. I have always found students of the Muslim faith to be wise beyond their years, and kind despite the negative portrayal of them in popular culture and media. The current events in the US will embolden some people in Canada who have their views legitimized by the leader of the most powerful country on Earth. I cannot dismiss it and say “that’ll never happen in Canada”. There is too much at stake. I have countless reasons why I love Canada and all the people in it, but we need to continue to welcome everyone. I’m here because of the generosity of the Canadian government, its programs to help the poor, and the many different citizens living in it. (My wife did not know her dad for the first 10 years of her life as he was living in Canada while hiding from communist Vietnam after the war) Canadians believe that we’re all better off when everyone is better off. By welcoming everyone, we do risk letting in some bad apples. That is the price of true freedom. I’m willing to pay that price.

“A painting’s beauty is in how the colours are put together to make a whole picture, not making distinction in its individual colours.”

-Beyond (a band from Hong Kong who wrote this song about the Apartheid, inspired by Nelson Mandela.


4 thoughts on “Teachers are immigrants

  1. This was a very interesting story to read, it made me pause and think about the state that our society is in right now. After taking some time to pause and reflect, it has helped me realize how blessed we are to be in such a great country like Canada. Thank you for sharing your story.

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