A Canadian Integration Story – Part 1

[h4]Imagine this…[/h4]

You fled a great calamity to arrive into a new country. You are shocked in every way possible. A friendly border officer welcomes you and your family with an aid of a person speaking your language. In the first week, you feel like a baby – the world is strange and new and you know nothing. But help is at hand and soon enough you live in your own place, your children are in school, and so are you and your spouse, sent there to learn English.

You have one year to get your head around your new life while the government is footing the bill. Your own personal adviser helps you navigate through the system of benefits, schools, culture, job search, health care, training and anything else that you and your family may need to resume a normal life. Your adviser is on top of the game: she regularly ups her professional skills, the most recent being in recognising special mental health needs newcomers may have and support they require to address them early.

After one year, your case is reviewed and you are expected to look for work. All help is there to get on as the government wants nothing more from you than a pay back in taxes. A new job may not pay enough to cover the childcare and your spouse may be staying home to look after them. Don’t worry. She too will get extra help to find work once she has more time on her hands.

Soon enough you are working, muddling along, raising a family, paying taxes, earning pension, having barbeques and reading the Sunday papers. The papers don’t contain ill feelings against migrants. Instead they are full of stories of survival and success against the odds, of commitment, hard work and contributions immigrants make to society. You hear foreign accents everywhere and see people from different parts of the world in offices and banks, as police officers, TV presenters, actors, etc. They look like you and the people you know and you are encouraged by this.

Life in the new country was hard at the beginning, but it is getting better and you are now ready to give something back. You are reactive in your community, helping organise native language classes so your children can remain close to your culture. You volunteer and encourage your children to do the same. So they do, as their school offers plenty of opportunities and rewards for it. Things are really looking up, but it would be much better if you could bring your mother or your sister over. That proves to be a problem as you don’t earn enough and can’t support them. You find another way and find support from people in your community to sponsor your relatives.

After some years of hard work and struggle, you look back: you still miss your home, your children may be too ‘westernised’ for your liking but they also are proud of their ancestry and cultural heritage thanks to all those folklore dances you made them do over the years. You did not plan for things to turn out this way but you feel that you belong.

[h4]Welcome! You have become a Canadian citizen.[/h4]

Read A Canadian Integration Story – Part 2…

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