Today is Canada’s 145th birthday, and like any birthday, I was looking for an excuse to celebrate. No, I was not headed for another emotional flat tire, I just wanted an excuse to have fun, but there was a caveat. It had to be free fun, as in the type of fun that didn’t cost a dime to have.
I was going to visit a Canada Day picnic in my neighbourhood (which is free) but I had a craving for a Tim Horton’s coffee (which was not free, but I had money left on my Tim Horton’s card to buy one). Since I had my newspaper with me, I decided I was going to have a coffee while reading my newspaper before heading to the picnic. Just as I swiped the card on the reader to pay for the coffee, I noticed nearby some advert cards for an open house at the One Voice Employment And Community Services, opening up today just behind the Tim Horton’s I was at. Were it not for the advert, I would not have known about this place.
I was going to take a pass on the open house, since the original plan was to have fun and forget about looking for work for at least one crummy day. That was before my guilty conscience reminded me that I was still unemployed and should be taking every opportunity to investigate leads to find work. My conscience won: it was the picnic that I ended up taking a pass on.
Once I arrived at the centre, I stepped inside and was pretty impressed by how bright and cheerful the office looked, and that included the staff as well. I was greeted warmly by Parveen, the executive director of the centre. She informed me there would be food served, courtesy of Faley Restaurant (mmmm, free food!), offered me some cold water, and told me to make myself comfortable and mingle.
While waiting for the food to arrive, I spoke to both the office staff and other residents in my neighbourhood. Of the latter, some were here, like myself, to get some information about the centre and the services offered. Others were people of influence in my neighbourhood and were there to welcome the new centre and offer their support.
Once the food arrived and everyone sat down to start eating, some members of the staff began to explain what the centre was there for and to share with us what the centre was trying to accomplish for the community. I was shocked to hear that my neighbourhood has an unemployment rate of over 20% (holy cats!), and that the unemployment rate for Toronto and Ontario may higher than what the media reports since it does not include people who work for short bursts at a time (like a few days or a few months at a time per year). I also learned about the youth programs being spearheaded to give additional opportunities to young people seeking employment.
I had a good time talking with others around me, and sharing stories about the neighbourhood. The food was absolutely delicious. By the time I was ready to leave and was in the process of getting ready to go home (I was at the centre for nearly an hour and a half and I wasn’t really interested in the picnic any more), it dawned on me that I am lucky to live in a great country like Canada. Sure, I’m out of work for quite some time, but there are places I can go to get help and support, and even if it really goes south for me, there are even more services for me to go to for help. I can bicker with other people in my community — of different faiths and race and color –about how the government is not doing enough to help people (especially young people and skilled immigrants) get back to work. Try speaking your mind like that in a dictatorship overseas and you’ll end up in prison quicker than you can say the word “prison”. We’re apparently wealthy enough for free food to be served at an open house. To top it all off, Canada has excellent summer days!
While I have many unemployment challenges ahead of me, I couldn’t have picked a better country to be in while dealing with them.
Happy Birthday, Canada!