Canada Day is a perfect opportunity to remember our roots

Written by Rod Loyola, MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie. First published in Albertaner on July 1, 2016.

Canada Day holds a special place for me, as it was on July 1st, 1976, that I arrived in Canada with my mother and older brother. My family came from Chile, fleeing violence, as many other Chileans did after the September 11, 1973, military coup. My father came to Canada in March of 1976, and we joined him, arriving on Canada Day forty years ago this year.

As many other new Canadians do, my parents worked extremely hard to provide for my brother and me. Because their credentials were not recognized in Canada, they worked multiple jobs for which they were overqualified - a challenge that many new Canadians continue to face to this day.

I know firsthand how difficult and daunting it can be to adapt to a new culture and a new country, and I know the difference a strong community of support can make for individuals and families. My family found our support when we moved to Mill Woods, where we were surrounded by other Chileans and Canadians from many backgrounds.

The constituency I represent – Edmonton-Ellerslie – is equally diverse. It is truly a cultural mosaic. We have people from all over the world who call our community home, including many German immigrants who have lived here since the 1950s.

With the exception of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, all Canadians immigrated to this land. We all came here, recently or not-so-recently, with dreams of a healthy, happy and prosperous future for ourselves and our children. What better place to realize those dreams than Canada and Alberta?

Success stories are easy to find among our immigrant communities. One example is Dr. Inder Pal Singh of SBI Bioenergy. He came to Edmonton as a grad student to the University of Alberta. Upon graduating decided that he wanted to call Edmonton, Alberta his new home. He now runs a company that is on the leading edge of alternative environmentally-friendly drop in fuels, which help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His business is contributing towards Alberta’s transition towards a more sustainable economy.

Another example that comes to mind is Horst Schmid. Mr. Schmid was born in Munich and immigrated to Canada when he was 19 years old to work as a miner in Yellowknife. He went on to become the first immigrant cabinet minister in Alberta history, serving as Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation from 1971-1975. He also founded the Edmonton Heritage Festival.

Each of our stories is unique, but no matter where we come from we are here now and we are each contributing our stories, strengths and talents to make Alberta the best province it can be. Our government knows that building a strong province means building an inclusive province, where everybody is recognized and valued no matter what their background and no matter how they identify themselves. That is why we have worked hard to promote inclusion in our schools and why I am so proud to be a member of a government with so much diversity in its caucus members. 

Canada Day is a perfect opportunity for us to consider and discuss our roots. It is a chance for us to celebrate our successes and look toward our future, together, as Albertans and Canadians. I hope you have a wonderful celebration of our beautiful, diverse and inclusive country and province. Happy Canada Day!