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This column is an opinion by communications skilled Esmahan Razavi, who moved to Calgary, left the town, after which got here again. For extra details about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

A few weeks in the past, I took a visit to Toronto — the town the place I spent my teenagers and early 20s. Every time I’m going, I get the identical query: “Why are you continue to residing in Alberta?”

After over a decade in Calgary, the query chafes. I like residing in Calgary, and I select to remain.

However that query hit me another way this time. I got here to a miserable and uneasy realization: regardless of being a proud Calgarian, I nonetheless breathe extra simply in Toronto.

On the one hand, this seems like a betrayal to Calgary, the town I name my dwelling. And on the opposite, I do not need it to be true — it implies that, as a lot as I’d deny it, part of me seems like I will by no means really match into what it means to be a Calgarian.

Being Calgarian

I do not assume I am particularly paranoid or treasured for feeling that manner. I’ve lived throughout North America, and on different continents, however for a metropolis with such a relentless movement of newcomers, I’m struck by how routinely I hear folks proclaim they’re born-and-bred Calgarians, as if being born into a selected longitude and latitude is an accomplishment.

It seems like a loaded message: these of us who packed up our lives and selected Calgary won’t ever be as really Calgarian as those that had been born right here. 

That type of exclusion is mirrored within the story we inform about Calgary.

There is a notion that everybody exterior of Calgary has an outdated, incorrect view of this metropolis. However individuals who reside right here maintain these views, too, and so lots of them are the loudest voices telling our story. 

Kids on the spray park in Prairie Winds park in northeast Calgary. (Google Earth)

The reality is, Calgary is 2 totally different cities on the similar time. One is a company metropolis whose best success lies in a imaginative and prescient of the previous — and if we simply maintain on, the empty workplace buildings and quiet downtown streets will at some point return to their former glory. 

On this model of Calgary, boards for main organizations are predominantly white and male, and when progress is made it is usually for white girls, as if racialized people do not exist. A good portion of the racialized inhabitants is relegated to a single urban quadrant that suffers from an infrastructure deficit and a bent to be blamed for every little thing, from COVID rates to gang violence.

On this metropolis, our model is company and cowboy. In case you do not establish with these items, you do not belong. 

However there’s one other Calgary. My Calgary.

That is my Calgary

It’s a vibrant, numerous and dynamic place, the place we’re not solely able to embrace the longer term, but in addition to be those who construct it. My Calgary is Prairie Winds Park, the place youngsters play basketball of their conventional gown and listen to dozens of languages of their faculty halls.

My Calgary simply elected its first racialized girl mayor, after electing the nation’s first Muslim mayor. My Calgary is Canada’s third-most numerous metropolis. My Calgary is a spot the place tickets to theatre and reside performances promote out, the place folks play cricket in the summertime, the place folks transfer from internationally for every little thing from teachers to tech to movie to renewable power. 

It is a Calgary many people like to speak about. In some methods, it is hidden away, trotted out solely to verify a field about how numerous we may be.

My level is to not diminish the issues we rejoice now, however to problem a warning. In a metropolis that sits on conventional Blackfoot territories and has a visual minority inhabitants of over 35 per cent, telling an exclusionary story has penalties: folks will really feel like they do not see themselves in what this metropolis may be. And to roll one’s eyes and dismiss that feeling, to extra staunchly entrench oneself into the company, cowboy angle, is to disregard so many individuals who make this metropolis what it’s as we speak.

On the airplane dwelling, I remembered a Tourism Toronto ad. It leans into Toronto’s status as a various, welcoming metropolis.

It showcases clips from across the metropolis and proclaims: “all flavours are welcome.”

Range is the lifeblood of the advert, and the town.

A lady takes a photograph through the Nagar Kirtan Parade in Calgary. (Kate Adach/CBC)

The video options Caribana, North America’s largest cultural competition. Calgary has large cultural occasions, too — like Nagar Kirtan, which attracted an estimated 100,000 people this yr. Expo Latino and Fiesta Filipino have turn into main downtown summer season festivals.

The Calgary we might share

However how usually are these featured on our tourism adverts? How usually is the northeast’s Prairie Winds Park spoken of in the identical breath as Edworthy or Weaselhead?

What would it not imply for Calgary if our official story was additionally “all are welcome right here”? What if we centred variety in every little thing we did, as an alternative of tacking it on on the finish?

What if we informed a narrative about belonging and the longer term, as an alternative of custom and exclusivity? 

If I did not really feel like I belonged right here in Calgary, I might transfer. I did for a short time, to downtown Vancouver, a minute away from the ocean. 

I got here again as a result of I imagine on this metropolis. As a result of I do know we’re a spot the place so many can really feel welcomed and embraced.

As a result of I do know we are able to change Calgary’s story.


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