Weird title. I know. But that’s how I feel. I’m forced to love this country and city. I tried not to. I tried to love another U.S. or Canadian city. But I would be lying to myself if I said I loved them or even liked them more than Toronto. Don’t get me wrong: there are great cities out there. They’re just not as good. So let me explain…
When my parents left Egypt, then ended up in Ottawa. They liked it a lot. But it was really cold. My dad had lots of family in California, so he decided to leave and take a job down there. He spent about 1.5 years there. They tried to make it work. For my uncles who were already there, California was an amazing place to live and work and raise a family – WHEN YOU COMPARED IT to Egypt at that time. My uncles hadn’t been to Ottawa, so they only compared it to Egypt.
But for my parents, who had first landed in Ottawa, they quickly came to the conclusion that Canada was a paradise and the U.S. had issues which they couldn’t stomach. My mom would tell me stories about how she wouldn’t be immediately served at a store (to buy clothes) because she didn’t have the correct colour skin. She was also told to sit in the back of a public bus because the front was reserved for another ethnicity. My parents had to take different routes to travel around because they had to avoid certain gang-related areas. The jobs were abundant down there, but the lifestyle was tough. No basements. Expensive health care. Crumbling infrastructure. Racism. Political Divide. An abundance of cheap alcohol, guns and gangs. These (and others) are the stories that I heard growing up. My parents ended up returning to Ottawa and had their first boy (my oldest brother). A few years later, they moved to Toronto and had 2 more boys (middle brother and myself). My parents loved Pierre Trudeau and named my brother and I after his sons (Justin and Michael). They loved that Trudeau had ‘let us in the Country’ (presumably, based on a more open immigration policy).
But that was a long time ago. I’m sure things have changed and that was no longer the case. I had to see for myself. I decided to take my family to California to meet my long-lost family. Cousins I had never met. Aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in years. After spending almost 2 weeks traveling around (from L.A., Culver City, Pasadena, Crenshaw, Redlands, etc.) here are some of the observations I came to: I’m glad I live and work in Toronto, Canada. Despite being expensive, having higher taxes and crazy traffic, it’s the greatest place in the world and here are 10 reasons why:
- Multiculturalism: I grew up in the east end of Toronto. I was surrounded by Jamaicans, Chinese, Tamil and Filipinos. When I did my law degree, I was surrounded by Caucasians. When I did my MBA, I was surrounded by Indians and Chinese. I married a Persian girl from Iran. These cultures have enriched my life – and I’m sure the lives of others as well. Think: art, culture, food, music, special occasions, people, movies, etc. Each culture has their own contributions to make a society great. We are a much more tolerant and open society than in the U.S. We aren’t a melting pot of ethnicities, trying to make everyone conform to one standard. “Different is good”.
- Basements: Yup, California (along with other States) does not have basements. That’s because of the regular earthquakes they have.
- Universal Health Care: it doesn’t matter what job you have, you will (eventually) be able to see a doctor/specialist doctor. You can find affordable drug and dental benefit plans. You don’t need to get a job just for their drug benefits.
- Subsidized Education: my undergrad and post-graduate degrees would have cost a house and put me in the red before I even started a career had it not been for the government helping out. More education leads to less crime (lookup Cesare Beccaria, the Italian writer/philosopher). Make education accessible/affordable/high quality. This isn’t the case in the U.S., where public schools don’t have the best reputation for these things. When you talk to Americans, it seems that everyone is vying for that ‘sports scholarship’ just to attend a certain school. It seems odd to me: why don’t people with the right grades go to the school/college/university they want to? Oh yeah, because it’s way too expensive.
- All 4 Seasons: although I love the warmth, getting snow during the holidays is special. Besides, Canadians take more vacations (presumably to warmer places) than our U.S. counterparts. So we’re coping!
- Gun Control: I hate guns. And if you want to see why gun control is important, just look at the U.S. My sister-in-law who lives in Redlands (which is adjacent to the San Bernadino area, where my nephew goes to school) told us to move there about a week before the San Bernadino shooting took place. I’m sure you know my response.
- Politics: When I was in Aruba, I met some Americans. During our conversation they told me, “I love Obama”. Later that same day, I met some other Americans who said: “I can’t believe Obama hasn’t been assassinated yet”. I was shocked by the extremely polar views. I don’t talk politics to Americans anymore. To each their own! But if you see what’s going on with Trump down there… it’s pretty scary!
- Respect: Canadians respect their government and each other. That’s what we learned in political science at U of T. Americans fear their government (because of their history) so they try not to make it too powerful and invasive in their social lives.
- Non-Violent: if you compare our flag to the U.S., or our national anthem with theirs, or our constitution (which doesn’t have a 2nd amendment giving everyone the right to bear arms) with theirs, you’ll see a clear difference: we’re not about bombs, guns, and war. We are peacekeepers. We try to be “pleasantly inoffensive”. Yes, we appreciate the U.S. protecting us from danger and terror; but we don’t have to take that approach ourselves.
- Beautiful landscapes: from B.C. to PEI, we have some of the most beautiful (and different) landscapes in the world. Great Lakes. Rocky mountains. Sprawling Prairies. Arctic Tundra. And it’s our job to protect these gifts. That’s why we are so environmentally friendly.