A decade ago, The Globe and Mail published The New Canada, an ambitious series that explored diversity in this country through the eyes of the next generation – young, educated Canadians at the beginning of their careers. Today we revisit some of those Canadians to see how their lives have changed, and what the next 10 years may bring.
Jennifer Woodill 38, Toronto. THEN: About to wed partner Alex Vamos, she was optimistic about her future and keen to start a family. NOW: Employed as a program manager at Centennial College, she calls herself “really blessed,” and describes how well her life has unfolded as almost a “fluke.” She and Ms. Vamos have two young boys after finding a sperm donor in New York City through a friend. About 20 years their senior, he and his partner also wanted children, so now one is the father of the 7-year-old son born to Ms. Vamos while the other helped Ms. Woodill conceive her boy, now 18 months. The “dads” visit once a month but do not share custody and are not involved in day-to-day decisions concerning the children. Not keen on being pregnant, Ms. Woodill did so to have a second child after she and Ms. Vamos, like many couples, struggled with fertility issues. “We’ve all done our bit,” she says, “and our kids look exactly like us.” NEXT: Pleased that life for gay Canadians is getting “better and better and better,” Ms. Woodill says she feels “well-protected” living in a big city with a “very gay-positive” school board. However, she adds, “I think, if you speak to someone in a small town or rural place, probably the experience is very different.” (From left: Jennifer Woodill, with sons Morgan,7, and Kalan, 18 months, and partner Alex Vamos. Written by Jane Taber)
(Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Maricar and Parvinder Bains Both 40, Richmond, B.C. THEN: In 2003, Maricar and Parvinder invited Globe readers to their wedding. A weekend-long testament to his South Asian and her Filipino heritage, it featured two marriage ceremonies (Roman Catholic and Sikh), three receptions, four costume changes and a “short novel” of an invitation. As the priest conducting the Catholic service put it, through this couple “we see something new.” NOW: As well as successful careers – he teaches high school and she is a senior financial manager with the RCMP – they now have three daughters and try to maintain a cultural balance. Baptized as Catholics, the girls also attend traditional Sikh events, but can’t yet speak both Punjabi and Tagalog, as their parents once dreamed. According to Ms. Bains, interracial marriage is now so common in their social circle that “no one bats an eye.” But on two trips to the Philippines, they attracted stares wherever they went, reinforcing their desire to raise their children in Canada. At school, Mr. Bains fields questions about his Filipino wife both from students, who wonder how, especially as an only son, he won over his family, and from parents concerned about ethnic cross-over. He tells the kids that his mother and father accepted the fact that he had fallen in love, and warns parents their children “are going to be young adults ... and you have to let them make their own choices.” NEXT: Oldest daughter Kaylee, now 9, has started to ask more detailed questions about her roots. Her parents make sure she understands that “half-and-half” is as good as a whole. So far, it’s a non-issue. She tells her parents, “My friends think it’s cool.” At times, the Bains try to imagine what the next nationality to marry into the family will be. In the meantime, Ms. Bains jokes that some attitudes hold true for fathers of daughters across cultures: “Par has his baseball bat ready.” (Maricar and Parvinder Bains with their daughters, from left, Kaylee, Kiana and Alexis. Written by Erin Anderssen)
(Jeff Vinnick For The Globe and Mail)
Chinda Phommarinh 36, Montreal. THEN: Ms. Phommarinh worked at a Montreal high-tech firm that developed software for the tourism industry and had just been bought up by travel giant Expedia. An immigrant from Laos, she defied the stereotypes about the “ethnic vote” by endorsing Quebec sovereignty and voting Yes in the 1995 referendum. Feeling a strong sense of solidarity with French Quebeckers, she insisted on speaking French in stores. “I want to change the clichés that immigrants didn’t want to speak French. ... For me, Quebec is as French as Ontario is English,” she said at the time. “I’m not 100-per-cent Québécoise. I have my culture from Laos – I’m not pure laine – but I grew up here, and it’s what shaped me. I’m not as attached to Canada as to Quebec.” NOW: Ms. Phommarinh left the software company to go back to school and then spent a year in the fashion industry. She now works as an administrative assistant for the National Film Board of Canada and lives with her Québécois boyfriend in an apartment overlooking a fountained square in Montreal’s St. Henri district. Over the past decade, she has travelled extensively, spending five months in Australia. As well, while employed by an Ontario-based insurance company, she visited Toronto for the first time – an experience that opened her eyes. “I thought I would hate Toronto, but I actually liked it,” she says. “People were hip and fun.” She has come to embrace her Laotian roots as part of a complex identity that also includes being a Quebecker. “If I was a tree, my roots would be Laotian, my trunk would be Québécois, and my leaves would be all over the place.” So, now Canada has a place in who she is. “I am proud to be Canadian. Now I’m thinking there are good things about being Canadian, too.” NEXT: Her connection to Quebec, its language and culture remains strong, but she has softened her views on separation. “Quebeckers want people to understand that it’s different, that we have a distinct society. But I don’t know if it’s still relevant for Quebec to separate, because I think Quebec is strong the way it is. So I’m not sure that, if Quebec separates, it would be for the better.” (Written by Ingrid Peritz)
(Christinne Muschi For The Globe and Mail)
Damon Badger Heit 33, Regina. THEN: As valedictorian for the class of 2003 at Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (now First Nations University of Canada), Mr. Badger Heit represented a new generation of aboriginals, with what he described as “a connection both to the culture and the professional world – negotiating between a new identity.” Looking back, he recalls being nervous – about having to speak to an entire graduating class and about his own future. “I had no sense of a permanent situation, what kind of job I would have or where I would live.” NOW: Mr. Badger Heit works as the First Nations and Métis co-ordinator for SaskCulture, a non-profit funded by the Saskatchewan Lotteries to provide grants to arts and cultural groups. He enjoys his job and attaches great significance to the many members of his graduating class he sees in leadership roles around him: as teachers, in the media and with community groups. “The old model was to ‘do it for them’ – that paradigm didn’t work,” he explains. “The idea of education is so important. It not only enhances the lives of the people who get to go, but the communities and environment they go onto with their employment.” Despite his professional achievement, he says his biggest source of pride is in the home that he and fiancée Shanti Eberlein have created for Jasper, their 6-year-old daughter. “I come from a place where a lot of our father figures were absent,” he says. His own parents split up when he was a toddler and, years later, his father, who struggled with substance abuse, was killed. Being a father to Jasper, Mr. Badger Heit says, “was a challenge I wanted to take on as part of my own healing, of becoming a man and becoming the type of dad I would’ve wanted to have in my own life.” NEXT: “Physical boundaries are no longer relevant,” Mr. Badger Heit says, now that young aboriginal people can connect via the Internet and engage through social media. The result: huge steps forward and movements such as Idle No More. But obstacles remain. For example, the increasingly multicultural nature of Saskatchewan has created new challenges for the relationship between aboriginals and the rest of Canada. “Before, it was a bicultural conversation,” he says, “and now it’s bigger than that.” Newcomers can sometimes pick up on negative stereotypes about aboriginals, he says, which means that now more than ever, dialogue needs to happen between all groups so they can better understand one another. “Maybe it’s the new generation that’ll tie it all together,” he says. (Damon Badger Heit and his daughter Jasper. Written by Ann Hui) Editor's note: A version of this story incorrectly suggested Mr. Heit's father once lived on the streets. The story is now correct.
(Mark Taylor For The Globe and Mail)