Beyond the stereotypes: A new Canadian learns a lesson about Aboriginal Canadians

Rafique Bhuiyan (far right) got technical training from CBC producer Merelda Fiddler with students (l-r) Kristy Auger, Simon Mocassin, Geraldine Carriere and Brandon Mazenc.

By RAFIQUE BHUIYAN

I came to Canada from Bangladesh 12 years ago. I arrived in Montreal and then, three years ago, I moved to Regina. In Bangladesh, I worked for an advertising company and wrote articles for the Bengali newspaper in my city of Dhaka, with a population of 30 million people.

I came to Canada for a better education for my son, and better opportunities for me. Canada is totally different. In Canada, anybody can accomplish their goals. But in Bangladesh there’s political instability and less job opportunities, even if you have an education. In Canada, I am pursuing my education. My son is getting a good education with bright teachers. He is taking air cadets and wants to be a pilot or an engineer.

When I came to Canada, I had zero knowledge about Aboriginal people. But what I heard was all negative–they are always drunk, they are fighting each other and taking drugs.  When I wanted to go and see their life, my friend told me not to go there. He said, “They are not normal people. They are dangerous.”

My first English course was at McGill University. One teacher told us that that aboriginal people have no future. He told us, “They are not thinking about their kids.”

When I came to Regina, my name was already well know, because I am the Chief Editor of Jogajog, a weekly Bangladeshi newspaper that is distributed across Canada.  Here too they told me, “Stay away from Aboriginal people.” They are very bad.” But that made that want to go to them and talk to them. I am always looking for stories. I like to talk to people and I like to make friends. The more people I meet, the more stories I have.

This spring, I decided to take a course offered at the First Nations University of Canada–the Indian Communication Arts (INCA) Summer Institute in Journalism. I thought it would prepare me to go to the School of Journalism at the University of Regina. Plus I would learn about Indigenous Studies so I could write about this area.

Rafique Bhuiyan (far right) got technical training from CBC producer Merelda Fiddler with students (l-r) Kristy Auger, Simon Mocassin, Geraldine Carriere and Brandon Mazenc.

Rafique Bhuiyan (far right) got technical training from CBC producer Merelda Fiddler with students (l-r) Kristy Auger, Simon Mocassin, Geraldine Carriere and Brandon Mazenc.

Our first radio assignment was to do “streeters” in downtown Regina. My partner was Nicole Akan, from Muskowekwan First Nation. We each had to ask people about their stereotypes—what stereotypes did people think others had of them, and what stereotypes did they have of Nicole and I. The stereotypes of me were all that we come here for our kids and our education, and we work hard. There were no negative things about us.  About Aboriginal people, what we got was mostly negative. Nicole was almost crying when she heard people say that Native people are drunk and don’t pay taxes and get easy money and are destroying their lives. She said she didn’t realize that people think of her this way.

She says all the negative stereotypes stop positive social change from happening. Nicole told me Aboriginal people don’t want to be in opposition to the rest of Canadians. She wants to become a journalist so stories can be constructive and help citizens to be better informed.  But, she said, “Not just on National Aboriginal Day–the media needs to be better informed about us every day, so they can tell our positive stories too.”

This was a whole new world for me. I have a new perception. I think immigrants and white people need more education.  Everyone I met, they had many obstacles; but they are pursuing their education. I told Nicole, when you get your degree, you will get a job and a whole lot of stereotypes will be broken.  If you get your education you can change the world.

 

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