When a community becomes more diverse, it creates wonderful opportunities, as well as many challenges. In this guest post on Diversity in Toronto, Sonika Gupta describes how her city is meeting these challenges.
Diversity In Toronto
I am proud to say that I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world – Toronto. I look around and I see so many different skin tones, I smell different foods, and hear many different languages every single day – even the weather is diverse! Growing up here, I’ve gotten so used to various cultures and beliefs. In fact, I am so used to it that somehow, I assume that everyone else around the world is too. However, it recently dawned on me that this isn’t true. I was visiting family in Des Moines, and we decided to take a trip down to Jordan Creek Town Center for some good old shopping.
As soon as I walked in, something felt off. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until my brother said, “Do you notice how we are pretty much the only brown people here?” That’s when I realized that Iowa lacked the diversity that my family considered to be a norm.
When there is a lack of diversity, there are many negative impacts, one being bullying. I remember when I was in elementary school, we had a new student who had just recently emigrated from Singapore. She was clearly the odd one out, she was very conservative and she was extremely dependent. She stood up to answer the teacher’s questions, she also never talked in class even when we were allowed to and everyone thought that it was so odd. She was getting bullied and she couldn’t even tell, it was all happening right in front of her. One day, a few girls got so irritated and complained about her to the teacher. The teacher had to explain that the school system in Singapore and other Asian and South Asian countries is completely different from what we are used to. She was clingy because she just really wanted friends, which is understandable. Luckily, we learned this at a young age and now we understand people from that part of the world a little bit better. You can only learn through these types of experiences, making diversity very important.
Diversity in the workforce is crucial too, it really allows people to open their minds. Sometimes you will disagree with what a person is saying or how they are doing something but it still allows you to consider other perspectives and opinions, sometimes it can even change your mind. It’s already very important in the business world to understand other cultures, especially if you are doing business internationally. For example, did you know that in Belgium, they don’t do handshakes? In Belgium, they greet people by doing air kisses. If you aren’t prepared for that, it could be very awkward.
Canadian Attitudes About Diversity
I think what differentiates Canada from other multicultural countries is that Canadians are very welcoming and open to other cultures, Canadians make a real effort to integrate newcomers. Although this is true, there are still several challenges that Canada faces. Overall, most Canadians embrace the diversity found in Canada but there will always be those who don’t; I think that goes for every country. As of right now, there’s a concern about the large number of Syrian refugees coming over and how it will affect the country. Another challenge that I personally think is a one for the world, is fear. With everything that has been happening internationally, people have formed stereotypes about people and cultures and these stereotypes are increasingly hard to break. There’s always going to be challenges, there’s going to be immigrants who come to a country and don’t fully adapt to how things are done in that country. Even though Canada is so accommodating, newcomers will need to do their part in adapting to Canadian culture. There can’t be an expectation that every single thing they did in their home country can be done here. I think that this is one of the biggest challenges that Canada faces when it comes to diversity- everybody needs to accommodate, including immigrants.
Just because there are challenges, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I am very hopeful for Canada’s future as many of the successful professionals in this country are actually immigrants. I think that for the most part, we have done an excellent job in terms of diversity. I can go to any grocery store and there will be an international food aisle – a BIG one. There’s not as much of a need to make the extra effort to go to an Indian grocery store and that’s a wonderful feeling. If I can’t choose between Korean BBQ, Mexican, and Thai food, that’s alright because those options are all within five minutes of each other and I can make up my mind on the way there. In school, we didn’t just celebrate Christmas, but also Chinese New Year, Eid, and Diwali. I think that everyone benefits from a diverse community. Everyone learns from each other and it’s fun to celebrate other people’s cultures. Again, there will always be challenges but it’s definitely worth the effort and as long as everyone is welcoming of each other, diversity is a fantastic thing.
Sonika Gupta is from Toronto. She is currently studying Business Administration at Sheridan College in Mississauga, Ontario. Sonika is interested oin all things cultural, and she enjoys creative writing: check out her blog at: https://sonikagsite.wordpress.com/
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