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Finding identity as a “hyphenated Canadian”

Ayo Owodunni says adding value to someone’s life and making a difference gives him a sense of belonging in Canada.

Brazilian-Canadian Camila Justino distinctly remembers feeling out of kinds each time she visited her native Brazil after immigrating to Toronto.

“I felt waves of belonging and disconnection with the land and those who raised me. I knew I didn’t belong to Brazil out of the blue for the silliest causes, like carrying alongside raisins and cucumber sticks as snacks for my youngsters,” Justino mentioned. “We now have a wealthy lunch with rice and black beans in Brazil, and so we fear much less about fixed snacks.

“I bear in mind my mom and a buddy discovered a few of my habits bizarre,” she continued. “I used coconut oil as a moisturizer! Once I noticed their events, their songs and the way they danced and talked to one another intently, I felt amazed. I marvelled at their real happiness even when coping with tough moments in life.”

Funnily sufficient, when she’s in Canada, Justino’s Brazilian self emerges. “You’ll be able to acknowledge my youngsters within the schoolyard; they’ve snowsuits when it’s fall,” she mentioned. “My son complains as a result of he needs to put on trainers and never winter boots when it’s 2 levels. I say it’s chilly, and he replies, ‘I’m Canadian. I’m used to this climate.’”

You are reading: Finding identity as a “hyphenated Canadian”

Like Justino, immigrants in Canada usually discover themselves in switch-and-swap mode, making an attempt to adapt to the Canadian lifestyle whereas additionally ensuring the connection to their native nation is alive and effectively. However it’s a course of — looking for that candy spot between belonging and letting go.

Searching for belonging

Kitchener, Ont.-based administration advisor Ayo Owodunni and his spouse had flourishing careers in Nigeria however determined to maneuver to Canada for a greater high quality of life for his or her younger household.

“We love Nigeria, however we didn’t need to go away the home at 5:30 a.m. each morning and get house at 11 p.m., the place we had been too drained to spend time with our youngsters after which finally develop aside,” Owodunni mentioned. “That’s why Canada got here into the image as a result of we wished a greater work-life steadiness.”

However Owodunni says his preliminary experiences in Canada had been disappointing. He handled challenges intrinsic to a brand new immigrant’s expertise in Canada: not discovering an appropriate job regardless of his {qualifications} and expertise; not with the ability to lease due to the dearth of credit score historical past, and even some discrimination.

“Lastly, even once I bought a job in a consulting agency, it felt like they had been saying that I wasn’t adequate to see or seek the advice of for his or her shoppers but,” Owodunni mentioned. “I used to be the one Black individual in each room, and I used to be relegated to creating chilly calls! I used to be depressed however I labored via it.”

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In the previous few years, Owodunni has been utilizing his experience as a range and inclusion advisor to assist firms and staff navigate cultural points that require a nuanced viewpoint. That has helped him make a reference to Canada and instilled a way of belonging in his adopted nation.

“A community-based group requested me to facilitate a dialog between them and their bosses, and it felt so humbling that they thought that I used to be the correct individual to do that,” Owodunni mentioned. “Including worth to somebody’s life and making a distinction — that provides me a way of belonging right here.”

“I felt waves of belonging and disconnection with the land and people that raised me,” says Camila Justino.

Id via creativity

Acclaimed filmmaker, doctoral scholar and musician Cyrus Sundar Singh finds worth in exploring themes of belonging and id via his tutorial analysis and creativity.

“When I’m writing a track or a poem or a thesis or an essay, I start to discover that on many ranges,” Singh mentioned. “For instance, if I’m feeling excluded or really feel I don’t belong, I’ve to discover it. Academia has given me a chance to not solely be within the second say one thing, but additionally to create, to precise that feeling and put it out into the world. That offers it extra worth.”

Singh lately co-led the “i…am” challenge to discover the evolution of the perfect of multiculturalism in Canada and the sense of belonging to Canada. Graduate college students from throughout Canada had been requested to supply a brief movie to deal with three questions: How do you see your self? How do you want to be seen? How are you seen by others?

Embracing duality

For Owodunni, answering these questions is tied to the idea of house. He thinks he’s nearly discovered the candy spot.

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He loves strolling into a loud Nigerian restaurant in Toronto with the music blaring and folks speaking over one another. When he visits his hometown, Lagos, he finds consolation in laying on his mom’s mattress or sitting on the ground along with his household and consuming the native meals along with his fingers. And Canada is house as a result of that’s the place he created a neighborhood and got here into his personal, personally and professionally.

“House is the place you make it, and that requires work,” Owodunni mentioned. “So, inviting individuals over, going to neighborhood occasions, volunteering at associations, even stepping out of your consolation zone to satisfy with individuals who damage you. That helps domesticate a way of belonging.”

Singh concurs. “Simply stroll throughout the road, knock on the door and say hi there! That’s the beginning of something that comes afterwards, or not!” he mentioned. “Even when somebody refuses to open the door, you’ve taken the step. So at the least you realize.”

In the meantime, Justino has determined to enjoy her duality, which can also be obvious in her work as a author — she writes completely in English, her second language.

“Generally, I fear that no language will stay inside me,” Justino mentioned. “However I can’t cease writing as a result of that’s how I examine my sense of belonging. I’ll maintain making an attempt to be understood utilizing my very own language. It’s not absolutely English or Portuguese; it’s an in-between language, fragmented like my very own id.

“Being conscious of my damaged items represents my freedom.”

These tales had been initially printed in Canadian Immigrant Journal. is a free nationwide multimedia platform that helps newcomers via their journey in Canada by offering the knowledge, inspiration and connections they could want.

Filmmaker, scholar and musician Cyrus Sundar Singh finds value in exploring themes of belonging and identity through creativity and his academic research.

DisclaimerThis content material was produced as a part of a partnership and subsequently it could not meet the requirements of neutral or impartial journalism.


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