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A young new Canadian holds a flag as she takes part in a citizenship ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 17, 2019.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Wes Hall is founder and executive chairman of WeShall Investments, Kingsdale Advisors and the BlackNorth Initiative.

Life is a journey, and mine took an unexpected yet gratifying turn 38 years ago when I embarked on a new chapter by moving to Canada. Reflecting on my immigration journey, I am grateful for the opportunities this country has provided me – a testament to the transformative power of Canadian kindness, the responsibility to give back, and the effect that collective efforts can have in shaping lives.

The day I set off for Canada, I felt a whirlwind of emotions. I carried mixed feelings as I watched everything dear to my heart recede into the distance. Leaving behind the familiar, I was on my way to a new country, guided by the hope of reuniting with my father and meeting his family in Canada. As I left Jamaica, my grandmother, whom we affectionately called Mama, told me, “Take care of yourself and the people around you.” I would build my life around those words.

Stepping onto Canadian soil, the stark differences from my home country struck me immediately. Every facet of life was a new experience, from the weather to cultural nuances. With determination and the support of my new family, I began to adapt, embracing the challenges as opportunities for growth.

Canada is a rich mosaic of opportunities, and taking advantage of every one that came my way transformed my life. Education, career growth and personal development flourished in this land, and every milestone was a testament to the power of possibility.

Some people never look back, but as I climbed the corporate ladder, I constantly reflected on my past and my journey. To this day, I remember those who gave me a hand up, and I never took for granted the help I received from fellow Canadians. It ignited a philanthropic spark within me – a belief that every individual has a role in lifting others up. This ethos of giving back is not just a personal commitment – it’s a reflection of the collective spirit that defines Canada.

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In 2020, the news of George Floyd’s murder shook me. I vividly remember rising from my seat when I learned what happened, glancing at the mirror and seeing the same face on the ground in Minneapolis in the reflection. I felt a call to help my community at that moment. I formed the BlackNorth Initiative, called all the chief executives I knew and asked for their help to make a difference, proving that it’s never too late to put words into action.

There are many other challenges facing the world, too, and one of them is the refugee crisis, which is playing out in places such as Toronto. Canada’s commitment to welcoming those fleeing war and crisis underscores the country’s keen sense of responsibility, and it goes beyond legal obligation. But just welcoming refugees isn’t enough; they need to be supported when they’re here. Yet hundreds of asylum seekers were left to fend for themselves when the city’s shelters filled up, forcing them to sleep on the streets with no access to shelter, food or even legal resources.

I’m immensely proud of the BlackNorth team, as well as the many community leaders and community members who secured these resources. With shelter funding still up in the air between different levels of government, the team is still committed to aiding the refugees, and we will continue collaborating with our valued partners and clients to provide support. The leaders of the companies in my portfolio have contributed to the cause and are still doing so. There’s still much work to be done, but our collective efforts exemplify Canada’s enduring spirit of solidarity and compassion.

The Canadian landscape may evolve, but the virtues of kindness, inclusivity and compassion remain steadfast. These values form the foundation upon which our society is built. As we navigate changing times, remember that our commitment to these virtues will shape our path.

The transformative power of the kindness, gratitude and collective effort that I’ve witnessed and experienced in Canada has defined my life, and it has ignited a passion in me for giving back and creating positive change, in return. As we stand at the crossroads of a diverse and dynamic world, let us continue to uphold the values that define us as Canadians.

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