Respect, tolerance and diversity are values that many Canadians hold dear.

In a world that’s full of hatred and fear, it’s great to live in a society that welcomes minorities with open arms.

While intolerance has always existed and continues to exist, our generation generally denounces it. But with a diverse society comes diverse views, and this is the case especially with the influx of immigrants in Canada.  

So what do you do when your immigrant parents hold the same intolerant views that you denounce?

While not all immigrant parents are intolerant, time and time again, I hear my Asian friends delve into the racist, homophobic and overall intolerant views that their parents hold. I am Chinese, so I am particularly impacted by these stories.

Recently, one of my Canadian-born Chinese friends told me how she was vilified for dating someone outside of her culture, and growing up in a fairly liberal society, I was particularly impacted by her story.

My friend told me that when she was younger, she had a strong sense of family; she had an exceptional relationship with her parents and looked forward to spending time with them every day. However, as she stepped out of the gentle hands of youth, their values began to diverge and she drifted farther and farther away from her parents.

I can see how incredibly difficult it would be to bridge the generational and cultural gap, especially when your parents hold very socially conservative views.

Not all immigrant parents have intolerant views, but for those who do, confronting the intolerance is awkward, upsetting and embarrassing. Reasoning with parents may seem futile and destructive. Although many values may seem shocking, it's about empathizing with parents instead. 

Immigrant parents grew up in another country that may have different cultural values, and it can be difficult to integrate Canadian values into pre-existing beliefs.

Although my friends’ parents have values that contradict my own, I understand that it is not her parents’ intentions to be malicious. However, sometimes empathy isn’t enough.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

We should try to generate respectful and rational dialogue with our parents regarding these issues, but we have to accept that our parents’ values may change slowly or may not change at all.

Even though my friend’s parents chose to move here, they did not choose to adopt the mainstream values of tolerance and diversity in our society, and they don’t have to. In fact, being Canadian means they have the freedom to think, as delineated in the Charter. Instead of imposing our liberal views on our parents, sometimes we have to accept their intolerance.

This is not to say that we should stop denouncing intolerance. It is imperative to continue facilitating conversation about the multiple facets of identity, such as race, ethnicity, sexuality to promote acceptance and understanding for future generations, but we also need to understand that older generations may stay fastened to their traditional views.

If being Canadian is about being tolerant, we need to see beyond our paradigm and understand that other cultures have differing views, and yes, sometimes those views are intolerant.


Vivian Cheng is a third year medical sciences student and Culture Editor for Volume 111. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her curating another playlist or thinking about puppies. You can contact her at

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