Immigration is as Canadian as hockey. Yet generations of immigrants continue to face barriers in their struggle to integrate into Canadian society and contribute fully to our city. In Thorncliffe Park, we seek to embrace newcomers and provide them with the means and tools they need to integrate, prosper and become an integral part of this city. However, that requires the ability to recognize the barriers newcomers face and the willingness to help them overcome their hurdles.
Because each immigrant comes to our city with dreams, aspirations and skills, we at Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) imagine a city of welcoming communities where each newcomer is connected, included and successful. We imagine a city where an immigrant’s success is viewed as our success.
We imagine a city where the narrative of immigrants is what inspires change.
In our vision, immigrants who arrive in our city with hopes and aspirations to find a home and a purpose find both quickly.
We imagine a city that will listen to the story of immigrants like Tahir Rehman, an anaesthesiologist from Pakistan and resident of Thorncliffe Park, and incorporates his vision into this city’s vision.
This is Tahir’s story:
My name is Tahir Rehman and I arrived in Canada with my family on August 5, 2011. I still remember that feeling of excitement and energy as I set out to build a future in my new country. I had left behind a well-established career as an anaesthesiologist in Pakistan to start again from scratch. I had researched Canadian regulations governing the licensing of international medical graduates, and I was ready and eager to work hard and succeed. What I hadn’t bargained for were the barriers that would slowly but surely weaken my confidence and dampen my dreams for a good future for my family.
The first job I could get was in a meat factory in Mississauga. I worked there for four months until I suffered a back injury from the hard labour. I had to leave that job and find employment at another menial, though less physically strenuous job. I also struggled to improve my language skills so that I could re-qualify as a physician in Canada. As I tried to survive financially, I also continued to prepare for my medical licensing exams. It was incredibly difficult to concentrate on my studies while juggling the demands of supporting my family.
I have had my credentials evaluated and am trying to find work in allied fields. I am attending LINC classes and employment workshops at the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) to improve my language and communication skills. I am putting on a brave face for my family while grappling with my growing feelings of disappointment and frustration the only thing that is keeping me on my path is the hope of surmounting these barriers one day, of becoming a successful professional in Toronto, a city I have grown to love. I am still struggling to reach my goals.
I believe that our city would be a better place to live in if these unnecessary barriers were removed. I imagine a city where newcomers would feel confident of achieving personal and professional success. I imagine a city where the only prerequisites for success would be honest hard work and professional expertise and a city where newcomers like me would have meaningful options for upgrading their skills and building successful careers. I imagine a city where I would be able to do what I am good at, to contribute my knowledge and talents and to be accepted and recognized. I am just one of many highly trained newcomers who are desperately trying to break down these barriers which seem almost insurmountable. I have lost much of my self- confidence but I haven’t lost hope. I am not afraid to work hard and persevere; all I want is a fair chance at success. As they say, ‘If you can imagine it, you can achieve it’
I am still holding on to my dreams and hoping for a change.
We at Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office share Tahir’s imagination, of a city that makes the promise of integration a reality for all immigrants.
We imagine a city where immigrants and immigration are celebrated for their contributions and recognized for their talents. We imagine a city that recognizes the credentials and qualifications of immigrants and a city that does not ask about “Canadian experience” so that the promise of immigration is a reality for all immigrants. One day, we hope, the “Canadian Experience” requirement will be disregarded as a form of discrimination.
We imagine a city where immigrants come for the opportunity and stay to build a community, a “beloved community”.
We imagine a city where immigrants are not just numbers, but city builders. If we want to be an immigration superpower we must be global leaders in attracting, retaining and unleashing the talents of those whom we invest so much in attracting. This is the morally correct, economically sound and demographically imperative thing to do.