Multicultural Societies Teach Us The 'Global Citizen' Mindset

Apart from a few trips to the Caribbean, the U.S., and only one trip over-seas to visit my native country -- 10 years after leaving it -- I haven't traveled much in my lifetime.

I am first-generation immigrant to Canada, and Montreal is my home city.

Although Toronto is officially named the most multicultural city in Canada -- and globally! --, Montreal itself is also very diverse, and multicultural.

Earlier this week, on June 27, it was "Multiculturalism Day" in Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the following in his statement:

"I join Canadians across the country today to celebrate multiculturalism, and our long and proud tradition of inclusion and diversity.

"As the first country in the world to adopt a policy of multiculturalism 45 years ago, Canada has shown time and time again that a country can be stronger not in spite of its differences, but because of them.

"As Canadians, we appreciate the immense freedom we have to show pride in our individual identities and ancestries. No matter our religion, where we were born, what color our skin, or what language we speak, we are equal members of this great country.

"Our roots reach out to every corner of the globe. We are from far and wide, and speak over 200 languages. Our national fabric is vibrant and varied, woven together by many cultures and heritages, and underlined by a core value of respect. Multiculturalism is our strength, as synonymous with Canada as the Maple Leaf.

"Today, let us celebrate multiculturalism as a vital component of our national fabric, and let us express gratitude to Canadians of all backgrounds who have made, and who continue to make, such valuable contributions to our country."

That's really something to be proud, and thankful for.

My family arrived in Canada over 30 years ago in the middle of a school year. As an immigrant in the province of Quebec, I had to attend French immersion school. The school had a lot of students like me: immigrants from various countries; kids needing to integrate, and learn the basics of the official languages. That was my first experience with multiculturalism.

A year later, we moved to a city 20 minutes north of Montreal. There, we lived within a Greek community, as well as with many Europeans, Arabs, Jews, and Haitians... And so, my second experience with multiculturalism was through my fellow classmates, friends, and neighbors, this, all the way through high school.

As an adult, I moved back to Montreal. My work place has always been multicultural -- and bilingual -- as was my surrounding as a whole; from my friends, to the restaurants in the city, the languages heard spoken on the streets, the many various cultural dressings, etc.

One of the lessons we learn through travels is of other cultures; of peoples not of the same tribe as us, how individuals practice different religions, traditions, and customs that are foreign to us. Traveling opens us to the vibrant world we live in, not only for the scenery, and historical sites, but by meeting the people with whom we share this planet with. Traveling is the opposite of being close-minded. Traveling and being around other people of various cultures obliterates judgements of a racist nature.

Lately, we hear a lot of the term: "global citizen". The expression has different meanings, and has generated loads of books and videos on the subject. But basically, a global citizen is a person who is aware of the world around him/her (and not limited to local issues), and contributes in making this world a better place -- one way or another -- with the belief that we're all human beings just the same.

A person who travels frequently, and gets to see different communities and the diversity of people and cultures, may not necessarily be a global citizen. But, a person who has never traveled and resides in the same community of his/her upbringing, where everyone is of the same background, could never be a global citizen.

I strongly believe if more people got to know the "other" (those of other religion, race, or culture), the world would be less harsh and close-minded. This may sound too Kumbaya, but the reality is that inclusive societies where integration is seen as a value, is a more open-minded society compared to the community where everyone is a native and /or part of that same tribe or cultural background.

And that is the link between multiculturalism and global citizenship. Both are different terms with a different definition, but living in a multicultural society can open you up through its diversity which is a reflection of the world's diversity -- and that in return can make you a more compassionate person, and empathetic to global pressing issues.

On June 29, Canada is hosting the North American Leaders' Summit, where PM Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto -- the three leaders together dubbed "The Three Amigos", meet to discuss official issues.

Diplomatic dialogue between politicians of different nations -- and cultures -- is how great leaders build relationships -- and NOT walls.

That is certainly the way to promote the Global Citizen mindset.

Following the summit, President Obama spoke in the House of Commons in Ottawa, and at the beginning of his speech, said:

"The world needs more Canada."


So, I may not be a globetrotter per say, and don't have a memorabilia of stamps on my passport, but my Canadian citizenship has provided me more than the better life, and peaceful nation my parents sought when they decided to migrate to Canada. As a Canadian, I learned two new languages I may not have otherwise (and who doesn't benefit knowing more languages?). And I learned life lessons such as: the beauty of multiculturalism, about inclusiveness, and coexistence. To be aware of global thorny issues affected so many less fortunate; be empathetic to those causes, and contribute in making the world a better place.