While first-generation immigrants can integrate and put down roots in Canada, they will forever grapple with a nagging question which is “but where is home”? This question might not be an ill-intended one but unconsciously streams from the mainstream society’s subconscious mind (Mainstream society is what most of society is doing.)
But where is home? Home is where the heart is, wherever that might be. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines home as “one’s place of residence.” Home means sanctuary. “Home is a space used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for one or more human occupants.”
Unlike many Western countries, Canada is a multicultural country, pulling many different communities together and helping them to integrate, not assimilate. Integration and assimilation are two different terms that conjure up different perspectives. Integration is for Canada, whereas assimilation is for America. To integrate is to retain your own culture, language, and customs; to assimilate is to blend into the mainstream society and not give that much weight to your particular culture and heritage language.
But where is home? What brings about the question in the first place? Several factors cause the question to be asked. One’s colour, creed, and language are some factors. For instance, a veiled Muslim woman looks different. She stands out, she prompts questions. A black man with inadequate English sounds and looks different; it is obvious he is from somewhere else. However, both the veiled Muslim woman and the black man might be presumed to be from somewhere else even if they were born in Canada and speak flawless English. Colour and faith play a big role here; being Muslim and black are instigators of the question, of course.
Proper integration cannot materialize in the first-generation immigrants’ lifetime. To integrate properly, they need to get appropriate housing, decent employment, education opportunities, services and resources, and places of worship. Also, immigrants have to know English or French and understand the country’s customs. While it’s not compulsory to absorb someone else’s culture, it is imperative to have an idea about it. Canadians are polite people but less expressive when it comes to telling someone they are doing the wrong thing. So it is good to know things in advance to avoid conflict.
Coming to a new place and learning its language is a daunting task. English is among the difficult languages that are replete with rules, rhythms, and resonant sounds. Anybody who has to master it ought to dedicate ample time to its learning, meaning they must attend regular classes, read many books, and amass enough vocabulary. (And it is quite impossible to master a foreign language).There is another weird aspect of this language; its pronunciation and way of writing are different. For example, the word “knife” is written in one way but pronounced differently. Weird.
Knowing the country’s official languages (English or French) coupled with its customs are the nuts and bolts of proper integration. And that may reduce the recurring asking of the question “But where is home?” Home is where the heart is; home is where you raise your family, and get your rights, despite existing challenges.