In Honour of Black History Month
When asked if there was anything he wished he could have known before immigrating to Canada, Mr. Mamadou Ka had a few simple words of advice. “What you learn in this country is that no matter where you are you always have to work hard and trust people;” two principles that have guided his path to success over the past few decades of his life.
Now a civilian instructor at the CFB Winnipeg Language Training Center, Mr. Ka immigrated to Canada from his home in the Ivory Coast after having studied law for several years in France. Despite his jubilant nature and ever-present smile, it was evident from the stories he shared that this path was far from easy. His dream at the time was to find success as a lawyer and eventually serve as a judge. When he came to Canada, however, he was told that his education did not equate to its Canadian counterpart and that he would have to go back to school. Rather than accept defeat, Mr. Ka went on to earn several more degrees, culminating in a Ph.D. Describing the experience of being an immigrant to Canada, he noted that “You always have to do once, twice, three times, four times more than what is required…” a fact that is paralleled almost perfectly by his four Canadian degrees. Though he never did go on to become a lawyer, he has found passion in education. His hard work and relentless resolve has led him to success in this country and, despite all he has faced getting here, he still has a smile on his face.
Describing the experience of a black man in Canada, Mr. Ka shared a short anecdote through laughter. “I was driving and there was a panhandler on the corner. Usually, they come, and they walk from car to car. He gets to my car, he skips me.” He noted that this experience left him almost confused; he did not know whether to be angry or to laugh. Ultimately, he chose the latter. Having faced decades of micro-aggressions since immigrating to Canada, Mr. Ka has adopted, likely out of necessity, the philosophy that most people are generally good. He has acknowledged the role of unconscious bias and stereotypes in this behavior; “He’s not racist but, at the same time, the prejudice you grow up with is always there.”
Despite everything that he has faced and continues to confront, Mr. Ka expressed his gratitude for the opportunities that Canada has offered. Through his dedication and resilience, Mr. Ka has conquered the uphill battle to success. “In the Western world, this is the best country where any immigrant can live because the country politically or legally, is a country that is built by people coming from outside. This is a country that was built on the principle of multiculturalism. This is different than a melting pot. Multiculturalism, technically and by definition, allows you to be who you are, to keep your tradition, to keep everything you are, and, at the same time, to be Canadian.”