Ottawa, Canada: The way Mohammad Ali sees it, Canada offers a quality of life that’s second to none, people from different backgrounds are treated equally, and there’s no better place to raise his five children.
“I came from Tunisia with nothing,” he says. “I came to Ottawa, drive a taxi to learn how to speak English, and now life is good, Alhamdulillah.”
He’s well on his way towards getting Canadian citizenship and can’t wait to be able to vote.
“Liberal,” he beams.
Last year, Canada admitted some 360,000 immigrants — the highest level in four years of Liberal government and a rate that’s steadily increased year-on-year.
According to the latest census figures, 22 per cent of Canadians are from ethnic or visible minorities. Under Canadian law, new immigrants can become full citizens three years’ after landing — and most are eager to embrace their new land, new politics and fresh beginnings.
Here in Canada’s capital last weekend, the Ottawa Muslim Association hosted a candidate’s debate for one electoral district to raise awareness for voters.
“We are a non-partisan organisation,” explained Ahmed Ibrahim, the association’s president. “For us, this is an education session for the community. The issue we are seeing is that people don’t know who to vote for. We are helping them make that decision.”
According to an analysis carried out after the 2015 federal election that saw Justin Trudeau lead his Liberal party to victory, Muslim Canadians voted overwhelmingly for the young leader.
The community opted for Trudeau for his support of their right to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. They also were concerned over anti-terror legislation introduced during nine years of Conservative government under Stephen Harper.
“A lot of times issues that relate to Muslims are talked about by politicians,” Ginella Massa, the moderator of the Ottawa debate said. “We are often used as rhetoric in this campaign without being engaged in these conversations.”
On Slater Street in the city’s downtown core, chicken shawarmas are selling like hot cakes at lunch as workers from nearby offices look for quick lunches. The diner’s owner is a native of Beirut, fled during Lebanon’s protracted civil war, and arrived in the city with nothing.
“I arrived in Canada on May 2, 1997,” Mae Wu Heung tells Gulf News. “That is the day that my life truly began.”
The customer service rep immigrated from China and is now living in Orleans, has three children and is proud to be Canadian.
“I will vote for Trudeau,” she says. “I remember seeing his father [Pierre, who was Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979, and from 1980 to 1984] and he inspired me to dream of Canada.”