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Discrimination Hurts

Time 0:03:32


I shivered as soon as I landed in Saskatoon airport on an early September afternoon although I had a woolen suit and an over coat in addition to two layers of undergarments. I was delighted to see the familiar face of the only person I knew from Bhubaneswar and thought all my problems are now over.

Very soon I realized that I was the poorest in town and this was depressing when back home I enjoyed a middle class life style. I was constantly called a Paki and was told to Go Home in many occasions. One time a group of aboriginal people asked to talk to my friend and I and when we stopped, they attacked us. When I wanted to rent a place, on the phone the place was free, and when I showed up it was invariably taken. Even permanent residents of Indian origin in the town did not want to talk to me or associate with me as I was a ‘poor student’.

But, in the Crop Science department it was a different world. Most of my fellow students were from Nigeria, Uganda, India, Bangladesh, Iran, and Egypt. They were all agriculture students and so we could compare and contrast agriculture in our respective countries. We played cards, ping pong, and soccer, had coffee and lunches together and invited each other for dinner. I ended up spending all days and nights in the dept.

Seven years after I landed in Canada, I got a chance to attend a conference in India. After that trip I decided to settle in Canada.

At my workplace, we have a map with pins for places where everyone has come from. They are from all over the world and we get along remarkably well. But, I feel that racism and discrimination are still prevalent in our community, just like I experienced 35 years ago. To that end, I am involved in a UNESCO initiative to end racism and discrimination in our community. And, through our Southern Alberta Ethnic Association we bring together many ethno-cultural groups to showcase their cultures with a view to improve understanding among them. My objective is to make Lethbridge as welcoming as my work place is.

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