Coming home for Canada

Feridun HamdullahpurDuring my early years at the University, my wife Cathy and I decided to live in Waterloo’s graduate student housing off Columbia Street while we waited for our new home to be built.

I remember staying up late to finish work and smiling when I looked out into the night to see lights still on in other townhouses where students were studying.

I could never have imagined a future where that same vibrant student community — a place where I felt such belonging — would shut down in the wake of a global pandemic.

The losses we all have experienced are profound, but so too has been our response to the COVID-19 crisis. We know from history that it is in times of disruption that we witness the deepest expressions of creativity and compassion.

So, today we are sharing our spring edition of the Waterloo Magazine in a spirit of hope.

In this special Canada issue, you will find stories about alumni who have found a way — through culture and community, athletics or in the workplace — to create a sense of home and belonging in Canada before and during the current crisis.

We are deeply honoured to share the story of Jesse Thistle (MA ’17), a Métis man born in Saskatchewan, who experienced being homeless before becoming a distinguished scholar and bestselling author. The foundation of any discussion of Canada, home or belonging must be found in the voices of Indigenous peoples like Thistle, Tabatha Bull (BASc ’00), chief operating officer at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and Jean Becker, Waterloo’s new senior director of Indigenous initiatives.  

The losses we all have experienced are profound, but so too has been our response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Martin Basiri (MASc ’13) founded ApplyBoard, a Canadian company that helps international students apply to post-secondary institutions. Find out how the current crisis inspired Basiri and his team to double down on their commitment to education and the dreams of thousands of young people around the world.

We also get a unique view into Canadian citizenship through the eyes of Albert Wong (BSc ’80), a judge who has sworn in more than 100,000 new Canadians. I also had the pleasure and honour of hosting Judge Wong here on the Waterloo campus for a special citizenship ceremony as we welcomed and celebrated hundreds of new Canadians.     

As other places around the world respond to the current uncertainty with intolerance, Waterloo will — in true Canadian fashion — continue to support those who create communities of prosperity and belonging through compassion.

I hope you will experience these stories as I experienced those lights glowing late at night in the homes of my student neighbours. It felt like coming home. We may be tired. We may not know exactly what tomorrow will bring. But we are not alone.