My Reflections on July 1st
As an immigrant committed to reconciliation, here are my thoughts on Canada Day.
As many of you know, I came to Canada as an immigrant about 40 years ago with very little. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come to this country thanks to the support I received from my late brother Jagdev and my sister-in-law Rajinder.
When I first arrived, I experienced racism and discrimination, and the language barrier between myself and others was often overwhelming. I felt lost, scared, and anxious — did I make the right decision immigrating to Canada? Would there ever be a safe space for me here? Could I ever truly be a Canadian?
After reflecting on these insecurities, I began to work towards my goal of integrating into Canadian culture while maintaining my own, which is an experience that so many immigrants can relate to. Community members lifted me up — from the public libraries where I learned how to read, to the schools that supported my daughter’s learnings, to the hospitals that employed my wife Sarbjeet and cared for her when she fell ill, to the transit system that employed me for years and trusted me to advocate for them.
These experiences are a true testament to what being a Canadian really means, which is being a good neighbour and accepting one another. Fast forward to now, and I am one of the first Canadian mayors of South Asian background, a title I am proud to share with Jyoti Gondek, Mayor of Calgary. I never thought I could achieve this, but Canada made this possible and I am forever thankful for that.
Not everyone has these triumphant stories or experiences. Many fellow Edmontonians are struggling to make ends meet, struggling to find affordable housing, coping with mental health issues, addictions, and intergenerational trauma caused by colonialism and residential schools.
Before colonialism, Indigenous cultures and economies were thriving and the land was abundant and lush. We must accept these difficult truths we must work alongside Indigenous communities to co-create an anti-racist Canada that centers on their experiences, resilience, and their brilliance. We are all Treaty people.
There is much education to engage in, much unlearning of harmful stigmas to do, and many actions to take in pursuing reconciliation with the true keepers of this land, the Indigenous peoples.
To those celebrating today, I hope you do so safely and alongside family and friends. For those who will be spending today reflecting on Canada’s past, please revisit the TRC’s Calls to Action, visit the Indigenous Peoples Experience Pavilion at Fort Edmonton Park or learn more about how you can be a better ally to Indigenous people — this work is never-ending and we must all commit to it.
To this country, thank you for accepting us and uplifting us through the highs and lows of our life. Sarbjeet and I are forever grateful for the opportunities we have received. I will do everything I can as Mayor of Edmonton to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live the lives they deserve, and to be the people that they want to be. We are proud to call ourselves Canadians, residing here on Treaty 6 territory. Happy Canada Day, Edmonton.