About Joyeeta Ray

Joyeeta Dutta Ray is an editor, advertising professional and published author of two children’s books, Time for a Tale and Tales Never Told, published by Rupa Publications in India. Originally from New Delhi, India, she has lived and worked across several countries in South East Asia over the last 20 years namely Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Recently she immigrated to Canada with her husband and two daughters. With Oh! Canada, Joyeeta woos her readers into the big, bold world of blogs. Follow her journey as she struggles to find a footing in a fascinating new country, mincing no words about the thrills and drills that lie ahead.

Pet Issue: Where do you keep your Pooch when you’re on Holiday?

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Not everyone looks forward to a long break. If you have a pooch or a kitten or even a toad that stole your heart, you will know exactly what I mean. It’s hard to leave behind your pets.

Some get fearful. Others go through separation anxiety! We’re not talking about the pets as much as the owners here who often break into sweat at the thought of staying away from their loved ones more than the unsuspecting creatures.  You are reading the words of one of them right here!

Canada is easily one of the more pet-tolerant countries. Pet owners represent $6.5 billion a year business. Combined with the USA, there are at least 9000 boarding kennels offering a variety of impressive services to more than 30,000,000 pet owners annually. (Source: petmd.com).

Pet boarding facilities are not just restricted to dogs and cats. You are allowed to embrace more exotic creatures that take your fancy from Giant Hamsters, the Hyacinth Macaw or Pot-Bellied Pigs.

That does not mean you can keep just about any breathing being that melts your heart. There’s a whole list of animals you can’t keep  such as chimpanzees, sheep and raccoons, however spacious your backyard. The Government of Canada is tough on animals that do not meet import requirements. The CIFA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) demands documents for all animals and animal products entering Canada. Whether you have a well behaved reptile or a poop-trained porcupine, all pets require vaccinations and permits.

But pets that are allowed into your home are indeed lucky. While you’re roughing it out with a backpack, your Garfield gets to luxuriate in plush spa-like surroundings, enjoying catnip bubbles during playtime. Your Snoopy gets to  soak in the pool, get deep massages and perch before TV screens when the activities wear him out.

Pet-Friendly Canada

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Photo Credit: Internet

Canada is strewn with eateries that welcome doggy diners. There are cat cafes where feline beauties and cuties lounge around while you sip your Cappuccino. There are pooch-friendly lounges, luxury salons and resort stays.

That doesn’t mean Canada’s pet pampering services are the best in the world. We are far behind places like Tokyo that has a Hedgehog Cafe or New York and California that have dog-friendly patios in various nooks and corners. But Canada scores pretty high still.

There are at least 1078 pet-friendly hotels in and around Toronto (Source: Trivago.ca) There are dog daycare centres and parks that offer free Doga classes (dog yoga) for those who like a stretch.

Catnap Cottages offers indoor space equipped with “climate control” and “UV filtration purification system” for a comfortable stay for your kitties.

My pick is Cats’ Castle at Oakville where we often keep our kitty when we’re on holiday. They are one of the few facilities in the GTA that is exclusively for cats.

Cats Castle

Cat’s Castle, Oakville  Photo Credit: Joyeeta Ray

“We started out with dogs back in 2001 and then transitioned over to completely cats in 2009/2010,”says the centre. During the holidays such as Christmas, they “typically reach capacity with as many as 180 cats”. Even on regular days, there are at least 60 to 70 cats that stay from a few days to a week or more.

“Kitties take a day or so to settle in. All cats have different personalities. We once had a kitty stay with us for 3 years due to job, moving and personal circumstances,” says the owner.

These luxury boarding hotels go out of their way to make it fun for both the owners and their pets. Our little kitty comes home with a report card after every stay. At Cats’ Castle, kitties also get to pose for Facebook pictures and videos to pacify sniffling owners.

The Cat Boarding in The Royal Pets Hotel and Spa is set in an entirely separate building from their Dog Hotel. There are heated window beds with memory foam mattress, calming music and full maid and laundry service for their feline guests.

Hygiene is of the highest standards at these pet boarding facilities. “Cats are first cleaned and fed. We sanitize the suites, cats’ items and clean the cattery” says Cats’ Castle. Many of their employees have medical experience. They offer a variety of medications from pills, topical ointment and even insulin for the diabetic ones. If a cat falls sick, the owner or emergency owner is contacted and due help given. For urgent medical care, there’s list of vet clinics and 24h emergency available.”

If you or your pet are more paranoid than most and prefer an in-home pet-sitter, the GTA offers that option too. Some come in at specific times to feed, clean up and play with the pets while others offer live-in care.

Pet-boarding does come at a cost. Prices vary on the level of service and luxury amenities provided. Cats’ Castle charges between $27-$49 a night (excluding discounts and taxes). Add-ons can escalate costs. Live-in sitters can charge more for their own expenses. Non-veterinary facilities cost less than veterinary clinics in general.

Whatever the cost, the personalized care that your pet gets and the peace of mind that you get when you’re away are priceless. Here’s to happier holidays henceforth!

This article written by Joyeeta Ray was first published in The Canadian Parvasi https://www.canadianparvasi.com/ , Issue 24, Page 3. 

Graham Bell to Rogers and Bell: How phones are changing Canada


I learnt a new word today. Micro-moment! It’s the moment when people spontaneously look up a mobile device to search, buy or learn something. Impressed? So was I.

It was an interesting morning on Thursday Feb 16th, 2017. 6S Marketing held an informative seminar on “optimizing customer journey in a mobile-first world” at the swanky Google office in downtown Toronto.

There’s something savvy about sitting with digital masterminds. It really doesn’t matter how much you know, pretend to know or don’t know. You always walk out with something useful: digital insights at best or smart selfies at worst!

I stepped out with new inputs on mobile technology in Canada that may interest you if you are a marketing maniac like me or a smartphone addict like me.

From Graham Bell to Rogers and Bell

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Evolution of the phone. Photo credit: VOPI Warehouse

Canadians have a fixation for phones. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the telephone being invented in Canada. Alexander Graham Bell who patented the telephone in 1876 at the age of 27 was an immigrant like most of us. Born in Scotland, Aleck and his parents moved to Brantford, Ontarion in 1870 in search of greener pastures after his two brothers lost their lives to tuberculosis.

Mind you, I didn’t just invent that nickname! Alexander’s granddad called him that. It somehow makes him appear less cerebral and more human like the rest of us. Aleck also spoke the Mohawk language and translated it into visible speech symbols. But the Canadians stuck to the telephone and buried his native linguistic skills in the pages of history.

Ever since then the telephone has a special place in Canadian homes. Smartphones rushed into the scene after IBM introduced it in 1992. iPhone toppled Poutine as the national obsession from 2007. In between we had our very own Blackberry that fathered free chats (BBM) but is somewhat sidelined now.

Today three out of four Canadians own a smartphone. That adds up to 76% as of 2017. In 2014, it was just 55%, says Catalyst Canada.

The telecommunications market is a virtual jungle here. But three service providers rule the roost controlling 90% of the cellphone market: Bell, Rogers and Telus.

Cellphone plans are as competitive and confusing as the variety of snowflakes here. How to pick the best cellphone plans? Go beyond just dollars and cents. Choose wireless coverage, data usage and speed instead. Here’s a reference by globalnews.ca to help you weigh the odds.

Smartphones get Smarter

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Shopping to Searching, Smartphones do it all

The little instrument is increasingly ruling not just our relationships but lives in general, both personal and professional. It is not just an internet gateway but has doubled up as a local map, global atlas, video recorder, camera, encyclopedia, social media booster, email curator, calendar, clock and personal diary, to say the least. You can also make calls!

The new dimensions of the mobile phone don’t allow much room for just idle chats. When you see your kids or colleagues peer into their phones, it may be wise to not shoot them down. More often than not, they are busy with research, jotting notes, managing social media, checking mails, or browsing through reference resources!

The smartphone has grown from a simple communication tool to a complex computing device. 26% of mobile-maniacs are reportedly not planning to repurchase desktops once they break down, says 6S marketing in the seminar that I attended.

The Two Worlds in Canada: Visible and Invisible

After three years in Canada, I’ve come to an interesting conclusion. You live in two worlds here. The visible (real world) and the invisible (virtual world)!

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Two worlds today : offline and online

In the real world, your five senses are all at play. You can see, touch, feel, hear and experience with full capacity! In the virtual world, your senses go mute!

Take for example a pizza on an e-commerce site. You see it, but it’s not what you see. It’s an illusion. You can’t taste the grilled mushrooms or smell the smoky aroma or touch the melted cheese glistening wickedly at you. But what really works here is your sixth sense. You intuitively know which one your family or friends would like!

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Ordering Pizza: A Micro Moment

When you turn to your mobile phone to search out the nearest outlet and order it online – that is a micro-moment!

Tips to make mobile marketing work for you

As smartphones become smarter and customers become savvier, brand marketing has  smartened up too. Here are 5 tips from 6S marketing, to make it work for you.

  1. Make your website mobile-friendly
  2. Have a mobile-optimized marketing strategy
  3. Make sure your site loads quickly
  4. Ensure your business is easy to search
  5. Build reliable security especially for paying bills

What is mobile marketing? Learn more from this short video.

If mobile technology is too much for you or you are smartphone-phobic, I have just one thing to say: If kids can get the hang of digital technology before they sprout their first tooth, so can you before all of yours fall out.

Micro-moment may sound as intimidating as Alexander Graham Bell. But call it something simpler (like Aleck) and see how friendly it gets.

Remember how “hello” warmed us up to the earlier telephones?

 

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Big, Fat Canadian Wedding Shows


I feel like Alice, just back from Wonderland. This afternoon, right in the heart of Toronto’s business district at the Metro Convention Centre, I met a woman preening like a peacock with exotic feathers springing out of her brains and butt.

Soon after, I stumbled upon a photo booth that clicks nudes for a living. I sipped warm apple cider wafting out the fragrance of farm-fresh apples; licked up little swirls of chocolate butter cream that goes into cakes; passed by kegs of lemonade; gorged down exotic hors d’oeuvres; walked in and out of a make-shift limousine and morphed momentarily into a muse for a couple of musicians who belted out Bollywood music as an ode to my nationality.

Are you East Indian or West Indian” asked one.

East Indian” replied my friend and colleague who I was with then, with so much confidence that I didn’t have the heart to correct that East Indians are arbitrarily referred to inhabitants of the archipelago stretching from New Guinea and East Malaysia to parts of Indonesia.

To be more precise we are “South Asian Indians” from “Bollywoodland” as the blissfully ignorant here say.

But the musicians were more astute than I gave them credit for. With no questions asked, they belted out a Bollywood hit. I mentally blessed them with supreme success and walked on to explore other aspects of the fairy tale world.

 

And what world was this? Weddings of course! Fairy-tale weddings with all the expected and unexpected frills and thrills! The renowned Canadian Bridal Show, to get to the point, held at the Metro Convention Centre. It is claimed to be the largest in the city with the highest volume of exhibitors, showcasing the latest wedding-related products, trends and services in Canada.

To those who know me personally, fret not. I’m not looking to remarry. No, it’s not my daughter’s wedding either or anyone else’s I know. This was just a Sunday well-spent for want of better things to do in sub zero temperatures.

I’m not sure how some booths such as nude photos fit in the wedding show although the signage tried hard: “Give him the sexiest gift you could ever want – you!” it wickedly read.

Oh Canada! You have a naughty side too? Woohoo!

But the more you live in Canada, the more it takes you by surprise. The country is more fun, naughty and romantic than you can ever imagine but you have to leave the sleepy suburbs to discover that.

Wedding Fun Facts

 

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Canadian Wedding Fun Facts

Wedding Bells disclosed that 13% of Canadian brides-to-be have dated one or more of their wedding party’s groomsmen! Can you beat that?

Huddled beneath the furry tuques and jackets are  soppy hearts that celebrate togetherness in myriad ways.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. In 2003, Canada was the only country to allow same-sex marriages between non-citizens.

The average cost of a Canadian wedding is $31,110, including the honeymoon says the Golden Girl Finance. Not surprisingly, nearly half the population in the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) country prefer to organize their weddings themselves, says Wedding Bells in a survey taken in 2013.

That is quite a contrast to South Asia where wedding event planners rake up millions planning weddings of all themes, shapes and sizes, yanking countries out of their economic plight.

What remains unique here are the increasing number of glamorous gay weddings and ethnic weddings thanks to the country’s multicultural mosaic.

The local wedding experts know it all. If you are getting married or simply wish to wander about in that world aimlessly to liven up your mundane life like I did, here are some wedding shows in Toronto and the GTA you may want to check out:

Wedding Shows in the GTA

Kismet Wedding Show 2013 - 01

Kismet Wedding Show 2013 – 01

  • Canada Bridal Show: Since 1984, Canada’s Bridal Show displays Instagram-worthy bridal accessories, goods and services. From lighting and fireworks to wedding gowns and videography, you will find it all.What’s missing? Surprisingly, make-up professionals, hair stylists and a wider range of catered food booths! Canada Bridal Show is held twice a year – three days in the winter and three days in the fall. Tickets are a tolerable $20.
  • Wedluxe Wedding Show: If you’re loaded, don’t miss the Wedluxe Wedding Show priced at $75 ($60 for early birds). You can enjoy samples from crème de la crème brands like Chloe and Dior and mingle with exhibitors who specialize in fleecing you with their luxurious services.
  • The Middle Eastern Bridal Show: Held in February, The Middle Eastern Bridal Show staged in The International Centre in Mississauga showcases a fascinating range of vendors that include traditional Middle Eastern wedding service providers for $15 at the door ($10 online).
  • The Ultimate Wedding Show: For those looking for freebies, go online and register free for The Ultimate Wedding Show held in the Living Arts Centre in April where some of the best wedding professionals in the GTA round up.
  • Kismet Wedding Show: Held in mid January at The International Centre in Mississauga, Kismet Wedding Show caters to the wedding obsessed South Asian Community. Tickets: $10-$25.
  • Suhaag Wedding Show: Suhaag presents the hottest wedding trends, designers, colourful bridal wear, skin-care and everything else you may be looking for. Food stalls offering delicious South Asian savouries make it worth a visit for the wedding-phobic.

Which wedding show takes the cake?

indigenous-wedding

Although all are fascinating, for me personally, what really touched a chord was the news of a traditional Indigenous Wedding held at the edge of a waterfall.

They honoured their ancestors and community elders, gave each other eagle-feathers, sat wrapped together in hand-woven star-quilts, shared traditional rustic food with their loved ones, blessed by the universe. Can it get any better?

On second thoughts, Alice had it good but I’d much rather be Pocahontas!

Film Festivals in Toronto


As an avid cinephile, one of the best things that has made settling in Canada more fun is the film festivals in Toronto.The eclectic mix of commercial, art house cinema, short films and documentaries are a glorious tribute to the country’s diversity.Toronto alone has over 50 film festivals.

Here are a few of the favourites:

  • TIFF: The Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) brings September alive with over 300 groundbreaking selections from 72 countries. The hot picks go on to stir up the Oscar buzz. For the star-struck, this is your time to click selfies with the Hollywood demi-gods.
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Hollywood stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney at TIFF 2015

  • Toronto after Dark: If squealing in fright thrills you, the world’s leading genre film fest is a good way to work out your lungs. Gasp over a chilling showcase of Cult, Horror and Sci-fi films. For discounts, get on the Zombie gear on the annual Zombie Appreciation Day.
  • Hot Doc: This is North America’s biggest documentary film festival where the world’s best picks are presented. Students and senior citizens enjoy free daytime screenings.
  • Open Roof Festival: Chill out before open roof screens with food trucks and music for company. Open Roof is a summer favourite you wouldn’t want to miss.
blogto com - open roof festival

Open roof festival. Photo courtesy – blogto.com

There are a host of ethnic film festivals lined up year-round. The Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF) showcased groundbreaking South Asian selections that I had the luxury to catch up on, close to my neighbourhood. Critically acclaimed screenings like Aligarh and Waiting, enhanced with the starry presence of the filmmaker and actors, made it a blog-worthy experience!

Canadian Films: fusion or confusion?

In sharp contrast to the nation’s rich film festival history, Canadian films remain a mystery.

While American film culture redefined world cinema, Canadian film culture remains groping about a unifying identity. Not surprisingly, many Canadian film folks end up hugging Hollywood.

At best, Canada stands in as a cost-effective extension of America’s domestic market with scores of Hollywood scenes filmed here. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver often double up as American cities.

That’s no New York you see in Quantico! The popular TV Series on squabbling FBI recruits is largely shot in Montreal.

quantico

Quantico – The TV series on FBI recruits is mostly shot in Montreal

Even if a film is made by Canadians, it may not represent Canadian culture which remains amorphous and ever evolving.

Call it the law of karma for culling the distinctive First Nations culture that could have given Canada the edge!

There are steps being taken to make amends though. ImagineNATIVE is a registered charity that celebrates the best of indigenous screen content by indigenous filmmakers and media artists for a greater understanding of Canadian Aboriginal culture. Some of them have made waves on a bigger stage.

Director Elle-Maija Tailfeather’s short film, Rebel Bihttos was applauded by TIFF as one of Canada’s 2016 Top 10 short films. The story,  based on her fascinating First Nations family history,  went on to win the Matrix Award at the Women in Film festival. Check out excerpts of her interview here.

Elle-Maija_Tailfeathers-400

Filmmaker Elle Maija Tailfeathers from the Kainai First Nation

Click here for other popular film festivals in Toronto lined-up for this fall and winter.

If you are a cinephile like me, the 2016 TIFF festival trailer below promises a very rivetting September.

 

For more on my Canadian journey and unique insights into Canada, follow my blog Oh Canada! Twitter: @joeyday20

Quirky Canada: 6 Fun Facts


I have never been much impressed with the Canadian sense of fun. TV commercials leave one questioning the unfathomable humour. People are polite, courteous, friendly, but really, in my three years here, never have I heard the gurgle of helpless, uncontrollable laughter ringing from any corner, anywhere. Even the weather here is funnier than the people. Or that’s what I thought till I came upon some fun facts on Canada. Now I eat my words.

The country has a quirky sense of humour bubbling beneath the icy serious surface. You just need to know where to look, especially when you are plannig an unforgettable holiday in Canada. See what I found:

  1. Polar Bears in Churchill: In the tiny town of Churchill, Manitoba, visiting polar bears outnumber residents in the city. Hundreds of them pass through the town in search of food. People keep car doors unlocked to help neighbours dash in and drive away if they chance upon one. If a grouchy polar bear sneaks into a home, they are whisked away to the world’s only Polar Bear prison where 28 cells lock up the misbehaving teddies.

  1. Bathtub Race, Vancouver: Can you imagine hoards of people in bathtubs out in the open? In 1967, locals invented the Bathtub Race to commemorate Nanaimo’s Centennial Marine Festival. Nearly 200 tubbers raced down a 36 mile course in converted bathtubs. Today Nanaimo Marine Festival hosts a World Bathtub Championship end of every July.
bathtub race - teamsnap com

Bathtub race. Photo credit: http://www.teamsnap.com 

  1. Sour-Toe Cocktail Club, Yukon: Membership at Sour-Toe Cocktail Club in Dawson City, Yukon comes with a deal: sip any drink with a real human-toe peering at you from its depths; dare to touch it with your lips and you are in the circle! If you swallow the toe you’re fined. Don’t laugh! There are 60,000 quirky members in the Sour Toe Cocktail Club to show you the finger.
dailymail co uk

Photo courtesy: Dailymail Co. Uk

4. Narcisse Snake Dens near Winnipeg, Manitoba: A holiday in Canada can really creep you out. North of Winnipeg is the Narcisse Snake Dens Conservation Area. There’s a viewing platform where you can watch tens and thousands of red garter snakes slither out of their rock-dens to date each other. From April to May, they are all out to mate.

Make new friends - likesnews com

Friendly snakes at Narcisse Dens. Photo courtesy: http://www.likesnews.com

5. Santa Claus is Canadian: According to The Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Santa Claus is Canadian. Santa’s addressNorth Pole: H0H0H0 falls within the country’s borders. Just don’t send Christmas gifts to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when you holiday in Canada. The Federal Accountability Act of 2006 and security taskmasters disallow the PM to receive cards or gifts.

sanata officially canadai - canadiancontent net

Santa Claus is Canadian – Photo courtesy: Candiancontent.net

6. Iceberg Harvesting in Labrador and Newfoundland: Businessmen in the “Iceberg Alley” off the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland have been cashing in the coolest ways. Through iceberg harvesting, pure, freshwater glacier ice is sold off as bottled water. Some of the iceberg harvested is almost 150,000 years old. Companies such as Iceberg Vodka Corp. buy it off them to distill their vodka into the smoothest vodka ever. 

For an unforgettable holiday, check out more fun facts on Canada here.

 For more on my Canadian journey and unique insights into Canada, follow my blog Oh Canada! Twitter: @joeyday20

 

Move to Canada – 3 years later


It’s been three years since our move to Canada from Bangkok. A lot has happened since then. We survived two of the worst winters ever witnessed in the last 40 years. We saw Sobeys launch Chalo!Freshco, an impressive grocery store in Brampton that makes me miss India a wee bit lesser. We witnessed the rise of Justin Trudeau, the handsome Prime Minister who makes Canada look better than ever.

Cultural diversity in Canada

There are 3 main political parties in Canada: the Conservatives, Liberal Party and New Democratic Party. Justin Trudeau leads the Liberal Party. He has charmed the world with his wit, vision and yoga moves.

Trudeau’s dad Pierre Trudeau, who was PM way back in the 70’s, first opened the door to non-white immigrants, introducing cultural diversity in Canada that is now one of the country’s greatest strengths.

Pierre Trudeau’s policy is fuelled forward by Justin Trudeau. He warmly welcomes everyone to Canada – from Syrian refugees to Brexit mourners to DonaldTrump denouncers. Google searches for the phrase “Move to Canada” peaked when the Republican front-runner won seven state primaries. It’s easy to see why.

Canada is internationally favoured as a stable place to live in based on a few key factors:

  • A socially progressive government
  • Universal health care
  • Multicultural environment
  • First world comforts

But it also sparks off a new debate for Canadian new immigrants like us. Will the huge influx of globally miserable humans make settling in tougher?

So far we’ve been lucky. In just 3 years since our arrival, we managed to own a home, a car and have decent dinners without free food tickets.

The journey has not been without challenges. But on the whole, we have a lot to be grateful for. Now with 27,000 Syrian refugees looking for jobs on Canadian soil  with planeloads more on way, can we continue to hope for the best?

Syrian refugees begin to arrive in Canada

Syrian immigrants at Pearson International Airport greeting relatives. Photo courtesy: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Can Canada manage us all?

One thing goes for this coutnry. No stone is left unturned to help Canadian new immigrants nest.

Federal funds and private sponsors pitch in to help. Friends and relatives are quick to open up their homes when immigrants can’t rent. Communities step in at the slightest crisis.

JustinTrudeau’s policy of embracing all is rife with controversy. But kindness seldom goes unrewarded.

The South Asian Sikh community in Canada who Pierre Trudeau had embraced back in the 70s now return the favour by helping Syrian refugees settle in.

In turn, Syrian refugees who moved to Canada merely months back selflessly raise funds to support Fort McMurray wildfire victims that swallowed up an entire town in Alberta on May 9, 2016. When language became a barrier, they resorted to Google Translate but the services did not cease.

Canadas-Sikh-Syrian-Refugees (1)

The South Asian Sikh community reaches out to Syrian refugees

“We know what it’s like to lose everything” said Anas Khaddam to cbc.ca. So they pitched in to help in any way they could.

Closer to home, on June 29th 2016, a huge home-gas explosion rocked our pristine neighbourhood in Mississauga . Residents rushed to the Burnhamthorpe Community Centre to help displaced families. Interestingly over 47% in the multicultural suburb speak a mother tongue other than English or French.

After 3 years since our move to Canada, we still feel a bit unsettled. But no matter how tough our journey, how cold the winters, not one of us can deny the warmth we found here.

Crowd welcoming Syrian refugees huffingtonpost ca

Modern multicultural Canada

 

  • Settled in Canada and feel it’s time to give back? Click HERE  to help Syrian refugees or Alberta wildfire victims. 
  • Follow my blog “Oh Canada!”  for more on my Canadian journey. Twitter: @joeyday20

 

 

Game Toronto


Game Toronto

Summer in Toronto is not always primroses and tulips. There’s a joke that the region has two seasons. Winter and Construction!

While winter goes in a stupor dodging ice, hail and flurries, summer usually means dodging road blocks and building sites under construction. It’s worse for new immigrants like us who are left scratching their chin on which way to go.

But the city of Toronto had a pleasant surprise for us this summer. For the first time, constructions were wrapped up and roads rolled out like red carpets to welcome the 2015 Pan-Am games.

After an initially sleepy nod, ticket sales sky-rocketed! Canada’s phenomenal performance made it a historical June!

Nothing could take away the renewed sense of pride. There was suddenly more to talk about than poutine, politicians and the hottest “back-to-school” day in ten years!

The city woke up from a long slumber. National news of wilting strawberries in the scorching sun took a back seat. Tax debts were forgotten. Traffic congestion was forgiven. Social media sites were clogged with euphoric noise.

A unanimous wave of national pride commenced with the spectacular opening ceremony. Canada’s first gold medal on the very first day marked it up further.  Local winners like Andre De Grasse from Markham gave Torontonians even more reasons to bring out the flag.

After 16 long years, the country had ended its medal drought in the 100 meters world stage. Thereafter, it drizzled, rained and poured medals of all metals every single day.

The final overhaul of over 200 medals in the largest multi-sport event hosted in the country did it. Spectacular fireworks from the CN Tower outshone the northern lights. The city sprung up for a standing ovation, showered in champagne and took to the streets flaunting maple-leaf t-shirts.

It was not just the rush of medals Canadians won that lit the patriotic fire. It was the spirit of Torontonians themselves.  The city that thrives on fundraising gave the world a glimpse of their extra-large hearts.

The Pan-Am committee sent out requests for 23,000 volunteers. Over 63,000 applicants raised their hands.

The auditorium in each sport was packed to capacity with the “loudest” crowd ever witnessed by overwhelmed participants! Nothing could dampen the elation. Not even Kanye West’s lame finish to the closing ceremony.

Athletes raved about the hospitality of the Golden Horseshoe region (GTA) where the games took place. The audience was applauded for heartily cheering participants from other countries.

CBC news gushed about extraordinary gestures by ordinary citizens: the cab driver who returned a Cuban track athlete’s lost wallet; the bus driver who rushed a Mexican mom to her daughter’s swimming race.

The city sparkled. Construction projects that dragged on for years came to a glorious halt.  The rail link from Toronto Pearson International Airport to Union Station roared to life from June. Streets felt less like the surface of the moon and more like a smooth runway, ready for take-off!

Millions of chests puffed up with pride sparking a new discussion: had Toronto come of age to bid for the 2024 Olympics now?

Over half of Toronto gave the nod. Others are wary. Media sources protest that bidding is a severe dent on resources. It takes $50 to $60 million to qualify for the Olympic bid alone. Could a city on the brink of recession afford it? Would weighed down tax-payers support it? Are we ready for more construction and training costs? Are we ready to trade peace and tranquility for the security measures that the Olympics will demand?

Yes, we have the legacy left behind by the Pan-Am games.  Many facilities are already in place.  If the dollars are well spent, new job openings and fresh inspiration could well create a new chapter for the Canadian economy. As tourism soars, so would flight tickets, hotel and retail sales! Let’s hope it doesn’t cripple us with the price tag.

Canada revels in the diversity of its people. Perhaps it’s time for the country to unify its people now.