By Heather Dietrich
Immigrant, at its most basic meaning, is a person who has permanently left their home country to settle in another. In 2017, Canada will be celebrating its sesquicentennial, having welcomed immigrants from around the world for 150 years. If I had to select a significant leader and contributor to our country’s business and cultural sector from among Canada’s rich legacy of immigrants, it would have to be Wayne Chiu.
Mr. Chiu is a highly respected Canadian business leader, philanthropist and social entrepreneur who founded Calgary company, Trico Homes, in 1992. The name of his company stands for values that run deep for Chiu: Trust, Respect, Integrity, Community, and Opportunity (TRICO).
I’m not sure who most people imagine they will encounter when first meeting the Founder & CEO of a successful, multi-million dollar company, but what I am sure of is this: Wayne Chiu will surprise you. His approachable, modest, and friendly demeanour is captivating, but moreover he is as humble as his humble beginnings.
“I still remember when I first arrived in Canada to study Engineering at the University of Manitoba,” says Wayne. “I came from Hong Kong, a tropical, bustling metropolis with an exciting commercial centre, saturated with a deeply rooted ancient Chinese culture. I then found myself in Winnipeg – a relatively small, young, industrial, and frigid city, with a predominantly white community – where Chinese culture consisted of a visit to a Chinese restaurant.”
Immigrants have to face many challenges when moving to a new country – it takes a lot more than just packing up your things and booking a flight. It also takes a lot of courage, resilience, and open-mindedness to embrace new customs, new languages, and new ways of doing things.
When Wayne came to Canada, he took great efforts to broaden his social circle to include as many non-Chinese people as his friends as possible, which gave him the opportunity to quickly learn the ins and outs of living in his new home.
“I could have chosen to limit my circle of friends to other Chinese students where it felt safe. One of the hardest things to do is to move outside of our comfort zone, so it’s only natural for us to take the easy way out by settling within our own ethnic communities.
“Although this provides us with great comfort and security, without reaching out and taking part in the larger community, we are hindering ourselves. If you stay within your comfort zone, you might find yourself wondering why you are not being accepted, not being listened to or understood, and not being given the opportunity to excel.
“Being a citizen has always been, fundamentally, about being a member of a greater community. I am proud to know that our country has one of the highest levels of community service of any country in the world. That is what makes us strong. It takes us beyond our families and our workplaces to discover those who are in need, those who are vulnerable, and those who are out of work and deserve to have the helping hands of their fellow citizens.”
A winner of the Immigrant of Distinction Award and recent appointee to the Order of Canada, Wayne Chiu makes community stewardship his life’s mission. In 2008, Wayne and his wife and business partner, Eleanor, founded the Trico Charitable Foundation as a way to fulfill their passion for social entrepreneurship. The Trico Charitable Foundation is focused on provoking innovation and building capacity in social entrepreneurship, and does so through a number of programs and initiatives, including Enterprising Non-Profits Canada and the Social Enterprise World Forum.
He also urges new immigrants to do the same. “I would like encourage all of you to follow the footsteps of the immigrants who came to Canada before you. Offer your talents and gifts to help build a better Canada – your new home – so that the legacy built by those that came before you can continue for future generations. Be brave, embrace the community, and in turn the community will embrace you.”