Canada 93/150: Moncef Lakouas

By Moncef Lakouas

I had dreamed of Canada ever since I was a child, but it always seemed out of reach, because you needed to be wealthy to study there. At least, that’s what I had been told. Then, one day my mother asked me a simple question, but one to which I had no answer: What do you plan to do with your future? I couldn’t answer my mother honestly, because I had no response, and it’s difficult for anyone to admit that that they have no plan, no path, no vision for the future, whether clear or not. Without giving it much thought, I told her that I wanted to pursue my higher education overseas. With a determined look, she told me to apply for admission at a Canadian university, which I did. A few weeks later, I received a letter of admission to the Université de Moncton explaining the tuition fees, which far exceeded what my mother could afford. Having worked all her life while raising five children, she had set aside a little money for her retirement—a retirement which she never had, because it was with this money that I was able to get my start in life and fulfill my dream of studying in Canada. My story is a story of sacrifice by my mother—a truly special woman who always put her children’s well-being ahead of her own, and without whom I would not be what I am today. I began my studies at university knowing there was little chance I would be able finish my program, since I didn’t have the means to pay for the entire degree, so while studying, I had to work to cover my needs and pay my tuition fees. It wasn’t enjoyable, but it was necessary, because failure was not an option. I could not allow myself to disappoint the person who had sacrificed everything for me and deny her what she wanted more than anything else: for me to succeed.

In June 2007, I graduated from the Université de Moncton in business administration. I didn’t have the means to pay all of my tuition fees for the final year, and the university refused to grant me my diploma until I did. I therefore suggested that the rector hand me an empty envelope instead during the graduation ceremony, so that I would be able to experience that long-awaited moment and share it with my mother. Later, I was able to honour my financial obligation and receive my diploma, which I then gave to the person who had contributed the most to it, my mother, as a keepsake and a gesture of thanks for her support. I felt a sense of achievement, pride and responsibility.

Today, I am passionate about politics, civic engagement and inclusivity. I see diversity as essential to the economic and cultural growth of our nation. I wouldn’t say my 12 years here have been easy, but coming to Canada was the best thing that ever happened to me, because those years, with all their highs and lows, have made me who I am. I love my community and I care about its well-being. I am proud to belong to it and contribute to its development, because the success of its residents matters to me. What I have been able to achieve during my years here is due to the hard work of past generations and to a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that grants all citizens the right to live the life they choose, to aim as high as they can and to have access to the resources they need to make their dream a reality. It ensures that regardless of your background, colour, faith or sexual orientation, you can live a full and rewarding life, be treated with respect and succeed in whatever field you choose, that there is a place for everyone in a country where different values are respected and talent is nurtured and supported. That is how I see Canada, and that is how I want my children to see it—as a place where they are free to choose their own path and make the change they want to see.

 
Compassion

Resources:
Asian Heritage Month: Celebrating Canada’s cultural diversity
Passages Canada website