Global citizenship: something to talk about

Global citizenship engages us all. | Photo by the city of Surry

Global citizenship engages us all | Photo by the city of Surry

Global citizens, according to the NGO Global Citizens Initiative, are those who identify beyond their own country’s physical and cultural borders with a more international community.

Are we all global citizens? Should we be? The tough questions of how humanity should feel about itself at home and on an international scale will be tackled in a discussion entitled I am not a global citizen and I am happy about it. What about you? The global citizen Inclusive City Philosopher Cafe will be held Nov. 16 at the City Centre Library in Surrey.

“Global citizen means being a citizen of the world, understanding culture and global awareness,” says one of the discussion’s moderators, Mayyadah Al-ani.

Exploring culture and society

“This topic [global citizens] is likely to be discussed in multiple ways such as education, health and society. Thus, it is likely that people will have different points of view that they will want to share in this matter,” says Al-ani.

This is the third event in an ongoing series exploring culture and society through Surrey’s Inclusive City Philosopher Cafes. This particular talk will be moderated by two members of the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership: Preeti Hiro and Al-ani.

Both women are professionals who are deeply involved in their community. Hiro is a businesswoman and author. The two are also members of the Surrey Immigrant Advisory Roundtable.

Hiro and Al-ani will help direct the discussion through this multifaceted issue.

“This is the first experience of its kind [for me],” says Al-ani, who has moderated academic talks but nothing of this style or scope.

“I am sure I will gain new experiences from learning the culture of others in this diverse society [and] that will give me an insight into this great culture that I am recently a part of,” Al-ani said.

Embracing multiculturalism

Surrey takes in more newcomers to Canada than any other municipality in B.C. and continues to grow. From 2001 to 2011, Surrey’s immigrant population grew by over 60 per cent. The immigrant population of Metro Vancouver grew about 24 per cent during the same period, according to reports from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

According to Immigrant Services Society of B.C., Surrey also settled the largest number of government-assisted refugees in the province. Approximately 700 people arrived in Surrey between 2010 and 2013. According to the National Household Survey, the most common countries government-assisted refugees emigrate from include Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

As a rapidly growing and changing city, Surrey has many ways of embracing multiculturalism. The creation of the Inclusive City Philosopher Cafes in the fall of last year is an example of how the city encourages inclusiveness.

“There was a clear difference between my background culture and the culture I started living in when I came here,” said Al-ani, who arrived in Canada from Iraq, and has been a Surrey resident since 2013. “It wasn’t that hard for me to assimilate this new culture; however, I still had to seek help from friends, peers and supplementary resources to bridge the two cultures together,” she said.

One of the ways new members of the community can get involved is by volunteering. This provides exposure and practice for both language skills and social skills in a new country.

“I enjoy and admire volunteering because it gathers people together for no materialistic goals and merely inner satisfaction,” Al-ani explains. “Volunteering adds to my experience of this culture and explains clearly to me how this culture functions and what its needs are.”

“As for me,” says Al-ani, “I don’t see myself as a global citizen. I have contributed in the education field globally and significantly… but I can’t define myself as such as I view the term as having a much deeper meaning.”

The monthly Inclusive City Philosopher Cafes were created in partnership between Surrey Local Immigration Partnership, SFU and the City of Surrey. Discussions are designed around specific topics with the goal of talking through the opportunities and challenges that arise from living in a fast-growing multicultural community.

For more information about this and other Inclusive City Cafes, visit