Canada: Our Home

CANADA: OUR HOME

A series of free-form stories from Canadians, about Canadians.

I HAVE ALWAYS FELT THAT CANADA IS MY HOME

At 19 years old, married and a mother of an 8-months old, my husband and I decided to come to Canada as refugees. On route in Spain, my husband was jailed at the airport for a fake passport. My son and I passed through and came to Canada. When I arrived at the airport, I was alone, scared, had nowhere to go and struggled to communicate. I was referred to a welcome centre where I was given few pieces of clothing for my son and taken to shelter. It took a year for my husband to be released from jail and make his way to come to Canada. We were welcomed by a few families who offered help and we started a new life. After a few years, I had a daughter and not long after I separated from my husband. Life became hectic again and I was faced with many challenges. Despite the hardships, I finished my education in Cosmetic and Beauty field and started my own business. I have always felt that Canada was my home.

My son is a 30-year old businessman now and my daughter is becoming a lawyer. It’s hard to survive in Canada, but it is not impossible. I love Canada, and I am thankful to be here.

THIS IS WHAT HOME IS LIKE

It was a warm spring day. My first spring in Canada. My sister had a bike she had barely used so I decided to start biking again. We used to ride our bikes after school and all summer in Tehran but, when we grew older, it was impossible for us as older girls to bike anymore.

After years off a bike, I slowly regained my skills and started my first adventure. I biked from home, taking the park towards Don Valley Bike Trail. The leaves had just turned green. I could smell spring in the air. I was biking quite fast and could feel the cool breeze in my hair through my helmet. The park was beautiful, welcoming, and kind. I would have never imagined I would be able to bike in such a beautiful place so free, so happy. At first, I kept telling myself ‘I am dreaming. This can’t be true’.

But then I knew. This is what home is like. I am home!

I HAVE FOUND MY HAPPY PLACE

We came to Canada from India in 1994 through family sponsorship. The first four years was a constant struggle for us. My brother who had sponsored us could barely make ends meet. He would go to university at nights and drive a cab during the day. He had a lot of debt on his visa card.

Being sponsored by my brother, we were not eligible for Ontario Work. We started to take survival jobs. I was working as a cashier and worked long hours. My life was limited to going to work and coming back home to sleep at nights. I had little knowledge of the resources available. Those years were tough.

In 1998, my brother’s debts were paid off, I got my driver’s license, started college, got engaged and became a citizen. It was the year Canada felt like home and it has remained a home ever since.

I feel happy, safe and secure here. We have free healthcare and can consider a future. My children have many opportunities.  I have found my happy place.

BLESSED AND PROUD TO BE HERE

I felt at home few weeks after I arrived in Canada, but I don’t remember why I felt that way. I know I am so blessed and proud to be here.

A friend of my sister once said, “Canada is like a step-mother who raised me and my home country is a mother who left me.”

I am grateful for this wonderful step-mother, who gave me what my mother couldn’t.

I AM HOME NOW

Canada became my home when I became at peace with my identity.  I came to Canada when I was 6 years old. I always felt I was different because of the way I dressed, because of my Hijab. I always excluded as visibly Muslim women. For years, I struggled with my identity and who I am but the day I felt comfortable in my skin, I felt at home in Canada. My Hijab does not define me as human. I am included because of who I am and not because of how I dress. Canada could have been home for many years but my own struggles had stopped me from finding peace.

I am home now.

HOME IS NOT WHERE YOU WERE BORN

There is a saying: “Home is not where you were born. Home is where your attempts to escape come to an end.”

I am a Jordanian/Palestinian. I have a Jordanian passport but I was never considered a true Jordanian. I went to Palestine once and, while it felt priceless to visit a place I truly love, it didn’t feel like home because I had no memories or friends there.

I lived for a while in the US, where my dad was on a work visa. The US was only a transit stop along my journey.

My husband and I applied to come to Canada as skilled workers. When we got approval, I felt that Canada could be the place that valued me as a person. Not knowing how I look like or what I believed in, Canada saw that successful part of me as an educated skilled individual, welcoming me to become a part of its society.

The feeling of being able to make a dream come true is what makes Canada feel like home. Canada is where I have unpacked my suitcases. My journey ends here.

CANADA, MY HOME, GREECE, MY HERITAGE

I have a wonderful partner of 40 years, 3 children and 4 grandkids.  I also have a successful catering business.  I am Greek Orthodox but, my volunteer work for years has been supporting a mosque and mentoring young Muslim men who are interested in pursuing their own business.  Many of them struggle with English and some have intergenerational issues with their parents and others experience difficulties with integration.

I have a lot of empathy for people who are born in one culture and have to make serious adjustments to live in another one.  My wife and I came to this country to avoid civil and religious war and for economic prosperity with our first child.  I worked on an assembly line of a steel factory in a small town and we lived by the rail track because the rent was cheaper there.

When I got laid off in the mid-80s, the economy in Ontario was dire. By then, we had two more children, no savings and no marketable skills. My wife and I decided to move to Toronto and rented my cousin’s basement apartment.  Every week we stuffed thousands of grape leaves and made many trays of baklavas, took the bus downtown and sold them to a hotel chain.  That exercise went on for three hard years until we could add other items to our menu and eventually, 5 years later, rented a small place for a restaurant.  The rest is history.  I live in a diverse neighbourhood, I go to my church, I still work at least 50 hours a week but we are happy.  My grandchildren go to Greek Heritage Language school.  How lucky we are – O’Canada.

– Nikos D.

THIS COUNTRY HAS MY NAME ON IT

When my two sisters and I got off the plane in March, there was a snowstorm in Toronto.  My Father called the city, the Freezer.  We were Chinese but coming from Jamaica.  My siblings and I started making snow angels, got used to snowball fights and sliding on pieces of plastic on the park hill.  My parents headed to Chinatown to work in a restaurant.  They came home every night very late and tired.  My mother’s hands were so calloused that when she touched my face for a goodnight kiss, I would feel a tickle. It sounds funny now but, it didn’t then.

Now, I am a middle school teacher, married and have a son.  My two sisters are partners in law firms.  My parents have both passed away and didn’t fully experience the fruit of their love and hard work.  All three of us give back to our communities as much as we can and feel truly Canadian.

– Delores K.

CANADA TODAY IS A GARDEN OF DIVERSE PEOPLE AND CULTURES

The first time I heard of racism, I was in grade two.  A boy had joined the class halfway through the year and he came from an African country. I Loved my teacher, a young man full of energy and a great soccer player.  He always encouraged us to exercise empathy; often we would hear, “put your feet in someone else’s shoes.” I didn’t really understand what it meant, though knew that it must be a hard and a good thing.

Emmanuel was the new boy’s name and I wanted to take him home for a playdate. My mom was OK with the idea, but as soon as he was dropped off at my door, she seemed horrified. We played for much shorter than I hoped for and that was the last time Emmanuel got invited to my house. That is until much later.

We went through elementary and junior high together and kept in touch in the high school. We ended up at the same university. By then had developed a strong bond but never talked about that one playdate experience.

Fast forward 25 years, I am a dentist, the father of two beautiful daughters and volunteer at their school.  It brightens my heart and soul to see children of all ethnic backgrounds live and go to the same school. Parents don’t fall short in exchanging pleasantries and pick up each other’s kids for play.

Can you guess who my partner is at my clinic? Of course, Dr. Emmanuel M.

– Alan

MY CANADIAN BROTHERS

My parents returned to Canada when I was two and my brother was about a month old. They overworked to provide us with a good life, always putting emphasis on school, sports and music. I went to a French immersion public school and did well.  I was a good athlete, engaged in school clubs and also lucky to make friends with a few other kids whom my folks approved of.  Socializing with them in my home, on road trips, hockey and soccer games, movies and summer cottaging became part of the formative experiences of my early life. Our families also got to know one another while driving us from game to game or to school events.

My relationship with these friends have strengthened over the years and solidified in university. Each one of us is from a different country and a different ethnic background. We have all supported each other through life experiences and challenges, visited each other’s country of origin, and have supported one another in our careers. We know each others’ families well and have extended a hand when there was a need. I currently work abroad with 4 of my friends and often get together with the entire group. Our parents were privy to everyone’s growing pains and taken each under their wing as their own. I am grateful to a fantastic school system that provided me with such invaluable gift.

– Foad M

Intercultural Iranian Canadian Resource Centre

A collaborative, engaged and diverse community to share and develop competencies and provide enhanced access to resources for its constituencies in order to accomplish their full potential to enjoy an enriched and fulfilling life.