A Kingston family came to Ontario in the 1970s from Pakistan in the hopes to provide a better life for their children.
Zermaan Khan was only two years old when his father decided to move his family to the Limestone City, a community that, at the time, did not have many visible minorities.
“My father was able to come here with a bachelor of science from Pakistan and went to college here and took chemical technology and became a chemical technologist,” said Khan.
Khan’s father was also the president of the Pakistan Canada Association of Kingston, before passing the torch years later to Khan.
“I remember being the only brown kid in my class. Because of this, I’d be asked questions about my culture, so I quickly became a slight-ambassador for Pakistan at school,” said Khan about why he is passionate about multiculturalism and representing his culture.
WATCH (Sept. 20, 2019): 14% of Canadians say immigration a top election issue: Ipsos poll
Khan said that growing up in Kingston was for him no different than it was for anyone else in his class, and that the community welcomed him and his family with open arms.
But, he added, there are a few challenges that immigrant and refugee families face upon arrival in Canada.
“The individuals that come over as refugees, unfortunately, are met with a harsher climate, and it’s because some of the stigmas that are attached to refugees these days,” said Khan.
Kingston Employment and Youth Services (KEYS) told Global News that the city has welcomed 500 refugees to Kingston in the past three years.
“Often people have been in refugee camps for three, four, five or more years, so there is a process of integration and settlement that we support them through,” said Michael Harris, the executive director of KEYS.
Harris says language classes are in most demand from immigrants and refugees because they feel that it is the easiest way to transition into Canadian society. Even though transitional services costs money, Harris believes that all levels of government have done an adequate job of providing funding,
“It’s never easy to move away from family and friends, but we try our best to make our friends from around the world feel comfortable,” said Harris.
The 500 or so refugees do not include the number of immigrants coming to Kingston. This boost in population is something that Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson and Kingston Immigration Partnership say is essential in the city’s success.
“As a city, we need immigration. We are facing more and more challenges in some of our industries and sectors to work, as people are retiring. We need more people to come and bring their skills and talents, so our institutions can thrive,” said Paterson.
“The talent and human resources, for which we have tremendous demand for, is something newcomers can bring that to our community,” said Wendy Vuyk, the director for Kingston Community Health Centres.
Even though Khan’s family has thrived in Canada, he says in recent years he has seen an increase in divisive language within global politics.
“I understand that we need to be cautious opening the flood gates to immigration, and the poverty that could be created by doing so could be detrimental, but I just look at my family, and families similar, living a prosperous life and I want others to experience this great country,” said Khan.
Khan continued to say that the greatest thing about being a Canadian is that he can be himself every single day.