Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Canada’s education system: ‘a gift beyond compare’

Canada’s education system: ‘a gift beyond compare’

Indira Samarasekera, National Post

I became a Canadian citizen in 1980. Looking back over my life, I can see now how Canada became my chosen home. But while I was growing up in Sri Lanka, I had no idea – not even the glimmer of a premonition – that one day I would become a Canadian citizen.

In many ways, my childhood was ideal. I lived in a tropical paradise, full of warm and caring people. I was surrounded by a vibrant extended family that wrapped my childhood within a rich web of myth and mystery, and gave me a strong sense of community responsibility.

Sadly, that paradise was eventually spoiled by ethnic conflict and civil war. When I was six years old, my family and I nearly lost our lives escaping the race riots of 1958. The experience left me deeply conscious of the need to eradicate intolerance and bigotry from our midst.

By the early 1970s, when I was in my early twenties, I knew that my commitment to diversity and tolerance was under attack, and I began to seek an opportunity to leave. In 1975, I applied for and won a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of California, Davis. Newly married, my then-husband and I left Sri Lanka. About 18 months later, we found ourselves in Vancouver where I started my doctorate, and began what turned out to be my life as a Canadian.

Sri Lanka and my family gave me the foundational values on which my life rests, but Canada gave me the space and opportunity to achieve more than I could have imagined. It was here that I found my life’s work.

Although I am now president of the University of Alberta, I am by training an engineer, one with a definite pragmatic streak. For my doctorate, I wanted to tackle a practical research problem and I was aware that Canada was a major metals producer. I thought surely there must be interesting challenges in that field that would combine practical problems with academic rigour.

My suspicions were confirmed when I met Keith Brimacombe, a young professor at UBC, who pulled out a paper napkin from his desk drawer outlining a chronic problem plaguing Canada’s steel industry. Solving this challenge became the subject of my Ph.D. thesis and the launch of a tremendously rewarding academic and consulting career that opened doors into the steel industry in more than 20 countries, and made it possible for me to apply my talents to the fullest.

This is no small gift. Indeed, I consider it a gift beyond compare. One of Canada’s greatest strengths is its investment in unleashing the potential of every individual through education.

Canada’s public universities and its public school system provide world-class education to people regardless of their beginnings. I say this not because I am president of one of those universities, but because I am a fortunate beneficiary of that Canadian public education. It transformed my life and the lives of my two children. Like so many Canadians, I believe that we should not underestimate the power of education to uplift the lives of individuals and change society for the better.

It is such a privilege for me to now be in a position to give back to Canada through the very channel that has given me such personal and professional satisfaction and accomplishment.

My father had a great aunt named Mary Rutman who was a Canadian. A trained doctor, she arrived in Sri Lanka in 1895 (at that time, Ceylon) and found her life’s work. Among other things, she opened a hospital for women and mentored the first generation of female doctors. She led the charge for women’s right to vote and founded several educational organizations for girls and women. Sri Lanka fuelled Mary Rutman’s talents and passions, and she used those talents and passions to change Sri Lanka for the better.

Now, over a century later, Canada has fed my talents and passions as Sri Lanka once did for Mary Rutman. I find the symmetry of this bit of family history inspiring. It is now my hope that I can fully close the circle by serving my chosen country, and the country of Mary Rutman’s birth, Canada, with the energy and passion she once gave to her chosen country, and the country of my birth, Sri Lanka.

(This article originally appeared in the National Post and on their website on October 19, 2011.)

Dr. Indira Samarasekera is the president and vice chancellor of the University of Alberta. She earned her PhD in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of British Columbia.

Canada was my road to success

Canada was my road to success

Robert Herjavec, National Post

A few years ago, when I sold the company I had launched on a shoestring, I realized that my family and I had total freedom to live anywhere in the world.

My wife Diane and I discussed moving to Europe, and we actually considered buying a house there. We’re both Croatian, and our ancestral roots, plus the culture and prestige of Europe, made the idea appealing. Besides, raising our children there would provide them with lots of prestigious contacts.

And then it hit me: Who was I kidding? I couldn’t leave Canada.

All that I have achieved in life has been made possible by just two factors: My drive to succeed and my Canadian passport.

Spending my childhood in the rural Croatian village of Zbjeg had taught me that nothing in this world is achieved without ambition, a focus on success and the freedom to follow your dreams. Croatia at the time was part of communist Yugoslavia, which provided the other lesson in my life. Watching how my father and others were restricted in the things they could achieve and the thoughts they could express taught me the definition of freedom.

My father refused to accept the restrictions imposed by the communists, and when I was eight years old we sold all the possessions that couldn’t fit in two battered suitcases, bought steamship tickets to Canada, and arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax with 20 Canadian dollars and the address of a relative in Toronto. We found a basement apartment in Etobicoke, my father got a job sweeping floors in a factory, and I discovered that life as an immigrant kid can be a challenge. My English was bad, my accent was thick and my Croatian-style clothes were very uncool.

But unlike Croatia, things could change in Canada - for the better. Despite the fact that the Herjavecs were not a long-established family with connections to the country’s leaders, that we did not have a fat savings account or even a family car (my dad walked two miles each way to work every day to save bus fare), or that we did not live in a large and fancy house, it didn’t matter. We could dream big and, with effort and drive, we could achieve big.

People born in Canada are not able to fully appreciate this distinction, and I understand this. They grow up without experiencing life in a country where your destiny is determined by the status of your birth more than the scope of your talents. In Canada your social standing, race and religious beliefs are of no consequence compared with your ability, dedication and ambition.

We take this for granted. We shouldn’t. Nor should we take for granted Canada’s reputation for honesty and fair dealing, which is as much a part of our culture as the maple leaf.

My work in various fields takes me to countries around the world. When I meet people in these far-flung nations, I never tire of explaining how Canada provided the means for me to achieve success, and how much the country’s values mean to me and my family.

It’s been more than 30 years since my parents and I left Croatia. If, on that day, someone had suggested that I would achieve the life I’m living now, I would have replied ti ste ludi, which means “you’re crazy!” in Serbo-Croat. Of all the things I need to acknowledge for my success, nothing is more important to me than the opportunity that Canada provided.

Every year tens of thousands of people take the oath of Canadian citizenship. They pledge allegiance to the Queen and they promise to fulfil their duties as a Canadian citizen. Each of them has a story to tell about their reasons for coming to this country and becoming Canadians. Their story is no less important or instructive than my own. Just different.

On behalf of all the stories that Canadians treasure about their country, I ask everyone to join me in reaffirming the oath of citizenship, reflecting on their appreciation of Canada and what it means to them.

I do this every day.

(This article originally appeared in the National Post and on their website on October 20, 2011.)

Robert Herjavec is the president of the Herjavec Group and the author of Driven: How To Succeed in Business and Life.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Live Immigration Chat from Toronto, Canada with Mr. Amir Ismail

Monday, October 1, 2012

Free Canadian Immigration Seminars in Middle East & Pakistan in October 2012

Free Canadian Immigration Session Seminars in Middle East and Pakistan by the Toronto-based Authorized Canadian Immigration Adviser Mr. Amir Ismail. Choose your city!


Based in Toronto, Canada, Mr. Ismail is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) and a Member in good standing with the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) He is also a Member of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants (CAPIC). As such, being a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) and Member of ICCRC, Mr. Ismail is recognized by government of Canada as an Authorized Representative who can deal with the Canadian immigration authorities on behalf of clients and can represent, advise or consult the clients regarding their Canadian immigration applications. The Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) certification confirms that the consultant is an authorized representative recognized by the Federal government organizations including the departments of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC), the Immigration Refugee Board, and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) as well as Provincial and Territorial Governments.