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Mixed Unions in Canada

Cinnamon wore a sari for part of her wedding festivities

A study of 16 ethnic groups in Canada has discovered that marrying outside of ethnic lines means better pay and more power.

The study completed by Leger Marketing Poll for the Association of Canadian Studies in March 2005 demonstrates mixed exogamous couples command substantially better incomes than their non-mixed endogenous union counterparts.

According to latest figures released on April 20, 2010 by a Statistics Canada study based on the 2006 census about 4 per cent of all couples in Canada are mixed unions. The reasons for these results might rest in diversity and access to different communities which could create a completely more complicated understanding of self.

“I think I make better Chicken Korma Curry than my wife. She says I am more at ease in following her cultural traditions than she is. Honestly I never felt I had the transitional phase of adapting, it just fell into place,” says Jerry Chan, an accountant at a Vancouver firm. He met his wife Fatima Ahmad, who has a different ethnic background, at a fund raiser for a local charity.

According to the 2006 Statistics Canada census, 5.9 per cent of married and common law couples in British Columbia are mixed race unions making it the province with the highest percentage of mixed unions in the country, higher than the national average of 3.9 per cent. Trailing in second and third place respectively are Ontario (4.6 per cent) and  Alberta (4.2 per cent).

Once prohibited through legislative measures and looked upon as taboo through social norms mixed marriages are a growing trend in BC.

Does the Vancouver born Chan think he fared better financially, by marrying outside his ethnic group?

“Absolutely, we both enjoy six figure incomes. I don’t think I shared so many commonalities with any girl till the time I met Fatima. My parents emigrated from Mainland China and were slightly surprised when I informed them of my decision. But they were happy to see I found the right person.”

Ahmad’s family initially questioned her decision to marry Chan.

“Jerry picked up the language, the jokes and traditions so quickly that they [the parents] feel he is more the son then I am the daughter of the family. Now they think we’re a heavenly match made in Metro Vancouver,” says Ahmad with a laugh.

Mixed race unions not unusual for BC

This is not surprising as BC has a long history of interracial mingling University of British Columbia sociology professor Renisa Mawani’s work on the history of mixed race unions in the province Colonial Proximities: Crossracial encounters and Jurdicial Truths in British Columbia 1871-1921 examines how mixed unions are not a new phenomenon but that society’s view of them has evolved. She traces the history of how mixed race peoples treated as a threat to pure race are now considered a successful part of a multicultural society.

For example, the merging of two cultures brings a unique understanding of the institution of marriages and unions. Even the ceremonies become more vibrant.

“Anytime I hear the couple is from two different cultures it gets me excited as there is room to get even more creative. The more diverse the cultures the more interesting the ceremony,” says Angela Girard, a wedding planner at Reflection Events, Vancouver.

Girard says there is no ‘one glove fits all’ rule available for mixed race wedding ceremonies. Does she find it is easy to bring everyone together on common ground?

“There are rarely occasions when I have run into an impasse. The whole marriage scene is about love and compromise. If the [couple] can get past the first step amicably the path for the future will be easier,” Girard says.

According to another study by Leger Marketing Poll for the ACS 74 per cent of the respondents would not oppose their children marrying outside the racial group, compared to only 14 per cent who were resistant to mixed marriages.

“Our daughter will have a choice of growing up as a whatever she may choose to be,” says Cinnamon Bhayani , a new mother. Bhayani, a Metis French Canadian, is married to Kenyan Galib Bhayani whose family background is Ismaili. The two met while they were working at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Richmond.

Cinnamon and Galib: Celebrate their mixed union

Ethnicity was never an issue for the Bhayanis. They had other commonalities to consider in their decision to solemnize this union such as their love for photography and travelling.

“Galib showed me these photos of the Galapagos Islands that he took on a visit there that were breath taking. This drew me to him as we had similar interests. It started as a friendship at first.”

Both families were very supportive of the union.

Is love enough to conquer all battles?

“Absolutely not,” says Danielle Wong, a Vancouver mother of two daughters both with partners outside their racial group.

“My eldest married a Canadian of East-Indian descent. They met while they working both freshly out of University. Love conquered all but not the little things such as deciding menu items on a combined family dinner. It took a lot of adjustments for each,” Wong says.

The younger daughter is married to a psychiatrist whose parents emigrated to Canada from the Philippines??? . They met in university.

Wong says she is proud of what her daughters have achieved. One daughter is a beauty consultant and her son-in-law is a doctor working in Vancouver, They live affluent lives and have fulfilled their dream by overcoming the mixed marriage hurdles.

For Ahmad “, As long as your partner has the right personality traits – colour, gender, race or culture fade away. The only things that matter are ambitions, passion and the urge to live life to the fullest with the one person you desire to be with.”

life, Published articles

Canadians rejoice on Obama’s inauguration

Mayor James Atebe of Mission
Mayor James Atebe of Mission

Across Canada several events were organized by fan clubs to watch Obama’s inauguration ceremony, while some revelry was held over the weekend.

I talked to many Canadians on January 20, day of the much anticipated Presidential inauguration as they watched the proceedings in pubs, churches, class rooms, and homes throughout the country.

My narrative of the Obama legacy would have been incomplete without interviewing two prominent black-Canadians: Mayor of Mission, James Atebe and Clement Apaak.

“It is very significant that the son of a black man has risen to hold the highest office in the world and to me this is an important cause to celebrate,” said Dr. Clement Apaak, founder of the Obama Fan Club of Canada (OFCC) in Vancouver.

The OFCC organized a President Obama inauguration party to celebrate the power of hope on Jan. 23 at a local bar.

Apaak said, “He is the public indication of black people of the world. He is the spoken symbolism that has been established for the first time among the group of people that have been maligned and treated inhumanly.”

Canadians for Obama and Democrats Abroad, organized to screen the inauguration ceremony in Vancouver’s Rio theatre free of charge.

“You did not want to miss this, a day of history being made: new beginnings, new hope, a new US President,” said Braedan Caley, organizer of the event

Florence Whittaker, another Obama fan joined the inauguration party at Ceili’s Irish pub in downtown Vancouver.

“I am inspired by him as he steps beyond racial and social class lines to bring a public face to world leadership, speaking to issues not confined to America only,” Whittaker said.

James Atebe, the Mayor of Mission is a Kenyan-Canadian and serving his second term in office.

Dr. Clement Apaak
Dr. Clement Apaak

“He engages not only individuals but also institutions, organizations and nations. Most leaders have not being able to get everyone together on a common platform but he appeals to a common cause and unites people,” Atebe said.

Atebe further elaborates his stance on President Obama.

“Certainly up until now we have not known a world leader, let alone an American leader who doesn’t just seek to help Americans but positive aspects of humanity any where in the world.”

Obama’s has inspired creative fan reactions around the world, not only in Canada.

In London, United Kingdom Islington’s Hen and Chickens Theatre has announced plans to produce a musical, Obama On My Mind, inspired by the brand new President of the United States, reports. The musical is set to premiere on March 05 and will run until March 21.

“Black- Canadian community is not inspired just because he is a colored man.” said Dorothy Rashard a local Vancouver business woman.

“I hope American citizens are able to inspire Canadians to come out and vote in such large numbers as they did for Obama,“ Rashard said.

Here is more coverage on Obama’s cult status:

Clement Apaak Photo Courtesy The Georgia Strait