Pakistan to Canada

 “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be let alone!’ There is all the difference.”  Greta Garbo

My heart craved social freedom, and my mind played the practical party showing me images of financial struggles and loneliness.

Soofia Says
(c) Soofia Mahmood

In the end my heart won this battle and I came to Canada looking for safety and a socially moderate environment where I could choose to be secular without persecution.

In Canada I sought a place where being a woman does not put you at a disadvantage at least in the legal system. Patriarchy exists everywhere, unfortunately, even in Canada – but everything is relative. You trade one set of problems with another set when you decide to change your life. I chose safety and social freedom and traded it for the tough life of an immigrant.

When I came here, I was and am an internationally qualified and successful professional. I settled in Toronto – loving its busy and diverse vibe.

It is a fact that social isolation is a big issue with newcomers like myself, so when I started meeting people – through my child’s school, a course I was taking, or a mentorship program–and they befriended me, whether it was due to their curiosity of knowing a brown person or their intent to pay it forward, it really helped me – it helped me build a social network – people who could provide guidance about little things like where to buy groceries, what are my rights as a tenant, which jobs to apply for etc. little things that make a huge difference.  And so I ended up making great friends who liked me as a human regardless of my colour, background or newcomer status.


The biggest lesson I learnt early on was to let go of my ego but not my confidence. I started my professional career through a program called Career Edge. My brief stint at the Cabinet Office as an intern was meaningful on a personal level, and even if it was hard to be an intern, I made new connections and regained my confidence. It was a lesson in humility, which I feel has made me a better person. Shedding my professional ego has also helped me become more adaptable.


The moment I realized that I had changed the game for myself was when I went to a Pride event called Lipstick Jungle in my early days. I remember standing in the middle of the crowd, with no boundaries or judgments– I remember the goose bumps and thought back to the time a few months before when I was arguing with a senior co-worker in Pakistan as he criticized my sleeveless shirt with the onus that ‘good’ women don’t dress like that – and that day I stood among thousands of people who didn’t care who you were, or what you wore. It was a potent moment – it had all come together – the financial troubles and loss of a successful career was worth the social freedom. A year later, I ended up getting a great job at The 519 and was working behind the scenes at the same festival. This moment for me was a proud example of inclusion and diversity. I know that Canada still has a long way to go, we are not there yet, but the environment and legal system is certainly conducive to the journey towards inclusion.

People here congratulate me on my immigration like it’s a personal favor. I think it undermines our human status and potential and demeans immigrants who sacrifice a lot, work harder, at lower salaries and are often subject to racial profiling. I believe that the relationship that Canada has with its immigrants is mutually beneficial. We contribute to the economy and are productive, hardworking and tax paying residents with no inflated sense of entitlement. We are an important part of Canada’s hopes and dreams and we contribute through our sweat and tears in exchange for a safer environment.


I did not come here with a North American dream that is based on a cycle of debt. I came here to give my daughter better opportunities to choose who she wants to be, what she wants to wear, and what she wants to believe in. This was a practical decision and not a romantic hope or dream.


Read about Soofia’s journey on and


Your New Mom BFF!!! I am a regular mom but I choose to live my life to the fullest in high heels and fiery red lipstick. I want to share everything I have learnt (and I have learnt a lot) about skin, beauty, food, health and LIFE – Lets just say I know what's the secret to glowing skin and how your night cream can get you there - and how you can get a flat tummy after 3 kids from my years of working on top brands as a marketing manager. Hope to see more of you!

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