Inter [national] view: Canadian multicultural society

Ein erstaunlicher Erfolg, ein Symbol der Hoffnung: Justin Trudeau ist Kanadas Star-Premier.

In recent days the US and its disturbing as entertaining pre-election showdown is on everyone´s lips. It seems like also in Germany the US and its political actors can be sure about masses of media attention – negatively as well as positively. In contrast neighboring country Canada does not always stand in the media spotlight. Reason enough for Futur drei to get an insight in Canadian multicultural society. Jakob therefore met with Cata, our incoming from Canada.

Is there something like a global citizen? Cata is the prime example of it. Born in El Salvador, she attended a German school, traveled to Europe many times during her childhood, then started her studies at the Vancouver campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University and now spends her exchange semester in Friedrichshafen. I had the feeling that she was the perfect person to tell me about present social issues such as migration and integration that have been turned into major matters of German and European politics due to the refugee crisis.

Being somebody who has been to Canada for a couple of months there is one question that drives me during the conversation: Is there anything that the German society could learn from Canada in the course of the challenges and opportunities which the current phase of migration brings up?

I am interested in Cata’s impression of the Canadian society, first: How did she feel when coming to Canada the first time? “Before I came there I thought I would feel like a minority. But Canada and especially Vancouver is so multicultural, that I don’t feel like I am somewhere else.” This feeling does not surprise at all: Vancouver is not only one of the cities with the highest quality of life, but one with the highest immigration rates worldwide. Cata adds: “People over there do not make me feel like I am an outsider. I feel like they treat everybody equally.” In some way, immigration belongs to the Canadian identity. The fact that Canada has recently been willing and able to let 25.000 Syrian refugees into the country seems to reflect the natural openness towards foreign people. In Cata’s point of view Justin Trudeau, the newly elected Canadian Prime Minister, plays a key role: “We are all in love with him. The way he acts and welcomes the refugees is outstanding. He perfectly represents the friendly and open-minded face of Canada. I think we need more people like him.” Cata’s statement appears to be a pleading for a policy that is shaped by humanity and moral values. Angela Merkel would approve.

Cata has been living in the second largest state on earth for three years now and got a broad insight in the natural habits of the country. What she identifies to be typically Canadian? “Definitely Hockey”, she replies. “Canadians are so much into Hockey. If you are Canadian you need to like it.” Has she become a Canadian in terms of affection to the country’s national sport? “As we don’t have ice in Latin America I didn’t know anything about Hockey before. But since I am in Canada I really started to like it.” Later she tells me she works at the Hockey stadium of NHL-team Vancouver Canucks from time to time. “So in terms of Hockey you could say I become more and more Canadian”, she laughs.

We turn back to the starting point of our conversation. What is the biggest difference between Canadian and German society? Cata emphatically underlines that she felt welcomed when coming to Germany. But she noticed a difference: “In a few situations I feel that people here treat me differently. Not directly but indirectly, for example the way they stare at me when they notice I am not from here. I think especially older persons are not used to foreign-looking people.” I ask her if she has an example to offer that emphasizes her feeling. Cata refers to an incident in a bus a couple of weeks ago: “I was talking to my Mexican friend and laughing. An old lady then suddenly started yelling at us in German: ´Why are you coming here? Go back to your country!´” As Cata speaks German she could understand the lady. I told her she should have replied in German, but Cata couldn’t. “I just looked at her. I was too shocked because I didn’t expect something like that to happen. I have never experienced something like that in Canada.”

Reflecting this situation Cata extinguishes a huge difference: “In my point of view Canadians are more open-minded and relaxed about other people coming into the country.” So, does the German society need to learn to deal with challenging situations in a rather balanced way? Although she knows it would be impossible to change the attitude of an entire society from one day to another, Cata strongly recommends to globalize the personal view. “We are living in a globalized world, which makes us able to learn from other cultures. And in the end we are all humans who want to live in peace. As we cannot really change globalization people should learn to be open-minded towards people with a different background.” A strong statement from a person perfectly fits in the globalized society.

Until now we haven’t really touched the US and its politics. But at the end of our meeting I feel like mentioning the current primaries of US presidential election. I am curious whether Cata thinks something similar like the “Trump phenomena” could occur in Canada. Her answer is quick and confident: “No, I am almost hundred percent sure that somebody like Trump could not appear.” But aren´t there populist potentials in almost every industrialized country? Cata refuses: “There is a common sense that migration is rooted in and necessary for Canada. That’s why I don’t see somebody like Trump being successful there.”

Hopefully Cata keeps her positive attitude towards a multicultural world society. Although it is difficult to compare both countries due to their different historical development there is one thing I have learned during our conversation: Canada´s relaxed manner towards multiculturalism could to some extent serve as a model for the mindsets in Germany and other European countries.