IN THE NEWS ~ Burnaby is one of the most diverse communities on Earth

Published: July 06, 2012 10:00 AM Updated: July 06, 2012 10:22 AM

Forty years ago, on July 1, 1972, a young man landed in Canada for the first time. The airline lost his luggage, but he found his home. That young man was my dad (or so he became four years later).

His journey began on June 22, when he left India for Hong Kong. He stayed there a week. He then went to Tokyo. He stayed two days. Honolulu, one day. San Francisco, changed planes. Seattle, changed again. Until a small plane brought him to Victoria on Canada Day. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s the familiar immigrant story of Burnaby’s past and, as was beautifully on display at Ron McLean Park this Canada Day, it’s the increasingly multicultural reality of Burnaby’s present. As Mayor Derek Corrigan said on stage, 51 per cent of Burnaby residents today were born outside of Canada (including five of nine on city council and three of seven on the board of education).  Over 100 languages are represented in Burnaby schools, making ours one of the most diverse communities on Earth. This is our strength. This is our global advantage.

When MLA Kathy Corrigan asked for a show of hands of all those who were born elsewhere, there were white hands that went up (like that of nervous Italian football fan, Councillor Pietro Calendino), and brown hands that stayed down (like those of my son and I), and vice versa. One raised hand, in particular, that caught my eye was the black leather glove of Chief Superintendent Dave Critchley of the Burnaby RCMP.

After the speeches, I took the opportunity to talk with Chief Critchley in his Red Serge. He proudly shared his family’s military roots in the British Army, and how that in turn led them to India and what is now Pakistan. When Chief Critchley was stationed in Afghanistan, he had the chance to visit Pakistan and try to track down some remnants of his family’s heritage. In the end, I learned that the chief was actually born in France.

Of course, I should have guessed there’d be a surprise ending (or should I say beginning?).

Later in the afternoon, he joined me and hundreds of others at the Burnaby Village Museum, before we walked across the street towards the largest Canadian flag we had seen all day: the giant red and white Maple Leaf adorning the front of the Al-Salaam Mosque and Education Centre on—where else?—Canada Way.

Indeed, whether it’s my dad’s or the chief’s, the 51 per cent or the 49 per cent, all our journeys converge to make up the Canadian way ... eh?

Harman Pandher

Trustee, Burnaby Board of Education