编者按: 在加拿大本土出生的青少年大多认为种族歧视和文化排斥现象与己无关，但Katie Jia所遇到的一名Uber司机，一位来自巴基斯坦的移民却改变了她的看法 。
Editor’s Note: Racial discrimination and cultural intolerance would be seen as largely irrelevant by native born youths like Katie Jia, until she met her Uber driver – an immigrant from Pakistan.
“I felt what it truly meant to be accepted.” My heart sank as the sorrowful words washed over me. I don’t remember the man’s name, and I can barely even remember his face. However, those short 20 minutes are 20 mins that I will never forget, the story of his acceptance into Canada.
2 am in the morning, the street lights glared an unsightly yellow on the empty roads. The occasional car continuing their drive, as the busy city was finally put to sleep. I took out my phone to call for an Uber service. Within two minutes, my Uber driver had arrived.
He was probably around his late 40s early 50’s, still working in the middle of the night. We said our hellos and began the drive. Since it was going to be a while, I decided to strike up a conversation with the seemingly nice man, in which he started to tell me about himself.
He left his home country of Pakistan over 15 years ago, not to Canada but to the United States. Spending 7 years in America working as a doctor, he was making more than enough to support his family unlike when he was in Pakistan. “I was making a lot of money there, but I lacked something important. My happiness”. After seven years, the American culture broke his soul, and so he fled to Canada.
他问了我一个奇怪的问题，“对你来说什么是自由？”我脱口而出答道就是拥有言论自由和宗教信仰自由等。 “但拥有言论自由和宗教信仰自由的真正的意义是什么？没有自由会怎么样？” 他接下来又问了一连串让我措手不及的问题。但对我这名自打出生起就一直生活在加拿大的年轻人来说，我何曾失去过自由？
He struck me with an odd question, “What is freedom to you?” the immediate answer that I had was having the freedom of speech, religion, etc. “What does that mean though， to have freedom of speech and religion? What is it to not have it?” The question hit me like a curve ball. I’ve lived in Canada my whole life, but was there ever a time I didn’t have freedom?
But he as an immigrant from a Muslim country did not have this luxury all the time. What should have been the American dream became a waking nightmare for him. Coming from a Pakistani background, he faced racism, hate, judgement and disgust. Despite well adapted into the American culture, his face would always represent him as nothing more than “a dirty Muslim”.
“Everyday people would yell at me to go home to my own country, to stop ruining America. I learned English for them； I started watching football； I stopped praying for my religion； All I wanted was to be accepted, but all I was faced with was rejection. I wanted the American Dream we all talked about, but that dream never happened to me.” It was then that he came to Canada. He dropped his job as a doctor and became an engineer, with little faith left, he decided to start anew in Canada.
He peaked my curiosity for his love of this country, raising the question, “We have free education, health care, and freedom of religion. What is it about Canada you love the most?” I expected that he would say his freedom of speech and religion, but his answer touched me even more. “Acceptance.” I asked him to clarify in which he replied, “My dear, America too has freedom. No one could stop me from expressing my religion or stop me from speaking my mind, but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t being judged and hated for it.”
And then I understood. I could walk down Queens Street in Toronto, see someone practicing their religion or their political views, and accept that was their choice. Regardless of whether it was different from my views or a religion I don’t understand, I would applaud them for doing so. “In Canada, nobody judged me about my way of life or gave me dirty looks just because of my background. I finally found a place that not only let me say what I want, but accepted me for who I was.”
I realized there’s a difference between having the freedom of speech and having your speech being accepted. I could proclaim anything that I wanted and I would barely get judged for it. I could choose to show up tomorrow in traditional Chinese ware and not to fear of being publicly called out.
I had to ask, “Do you regret leaving your family and coming to Canada?” Without a second of hesitation, “I regret nothing. My daughter is 14 now and it is because of this country that she can smile.”
Before I even realized it, we arrived at my drop off point and it was time for me to take my leave. The words he left me, “don’t ever take this beautiful country for granted my dear. You never truly value something until its gone” stay with me forever. I said my goodbye and wished him luck as I got out of the car. I watched his taillights slowly fade away as the street lights dimmed a low yet luminescent light. I never did see him again. Although my time with him was short, the lesson he taught me was forever.
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