Ottawa·The things I wish I said

People made fun of our culture and accents, but we don't regret immigrating here

Mansi Sethi and her dad Naveen Sethi share stories and tears as they open up about things they've never shared before, after moving to Canada years ago.

Watch Mansi and Naveen Sethi share stories and tears about their journey from India, to Dubai to Ottawa

Mansi Sethi tells her dad Naveen that though she experienced racism growing up, she's grateful he chose to immigrate to Canada

1 year ago
Duration 11:29
Watch this Indo-Canadian family's full conversation in the next in our series, "The Things I Wish I Said." देखिये मानसी और नवीन सेठी की भारत से दुबई और फिर ओटावा तक की यात्रा और उनकी दर्द भरी गाथा

The Things I Wish I Said is a series that captures intimate conversations among three Ottawa families of Asian descent, as parents and children talk about racism and their identities.

Watch the Indo-Canadian family's full conversation in the video above. Click here to see the first in our series, and meet the mother and son who say they're not ashamed to be Chinese-Canadian.

Mansi Sethi never told her dad that in Grade 4, a group of boys grabbed her lunch and threw it out.

"I was eating Aloo Paratha [potato-stuffed bread] in class," the 18-year-old recently told Naveen Sethi, her father. "The guy just came over. One of the guys from the group was like, 'Oh, look what she's eating.' I guess it smelled different than other foods.

"I don't know what it was but [he] picked it up, rolled it up and chucked it in the trash can." 

Taken aback, Naveen asked for clarification.

"The guy did that?" 

"The guy did that," Mansi replied.

Mansi Sethi as a young girl in an Ottawa schoolyard. She experienced peers making fun of her ethnic food, accent and culture. (Submitted by Mansi Sethi)

"I don't remember hearing about all these incidents in Grade 4, 5, or 6," said Naveen, emotions welling up in his eyes as he looked at his daughter. 

"I mean, they're not things that I'd go home and, like, tell people about," replied Mansi. 

    Naveen Sethi, right, sheds some tears as Mansi, left, opens up about a racist incident she never told him before. (CBC)

    As part of a CBC Ottawa project, The things I wish I said, the Sethis sat down together and opened up about life after immigrating to Ottawa in 2012, and their reflections on the racism they've encountered as Indo-Canadians.

    Naveen, born and raised in India, explained he saw Canada as a place to grow and retire — a place for his kids to call home and have better opportunities. 

    That's why, after a successful 15 years in Dubai leading IT companies, he and his wife decided to bring their family to Canada. He says he feels fortunate he's only experienced minor incidents of racism here, compared to other places he's visited.

    "There is no place where racism doesn't exist because we're all human beings and then everybody has some prejudices," Naveen said. 

    Naveen feels no regret about the decision, though he and his wife do miss family back in India. 

    The Sethi family in India. Mansi thanked her dad and mom for making the hard decision to leave their families and immigrate to Canada. (Submitted by Mansi Sethi)

    For her part, Mansi wanted to share a message of gratitude with her father.

    "I don't thank you guys enough," said Mansi. "I think you guys downplay it, how much you had to kind of give up to, like, move here and then start a new life.