As I write this post today, I am sitting on my deck listening to the birds chirp, sun warm on my face and a gentle breeze in the air. Summer in Canada is such a beautiful time of the year and I can’t help thinking that this wouldn’t have been my reality if it weren’t for the brave decision my dad made 40 years ago to immigrate to Canada.
In January of 1977, my dad boarded a plane bound for Toronto, Ontario without knowing if he would ever return. Before this, he had spent some time living and working in Germany only to return to his hometown of Barrow-in-Furness in England uncertain of what his future held. He heard about an employer in Canada that was looking for skilled workers from a friend of a friend. It was a good job that would give him opportunities he wouldn’t get in Britain. All he had to do was get himself there. A few of his buddies talked about how great it would be to move to Canada, how the country was booming and looking for lots of workers and how they would be guaranteed to find a job. They all agreed to take the leap and leave Britain together. In the end though, despite all the wishful thinking and dreaming, my dad was the only one to follow through and get on the plane.
He left a country that was familiar to him, somewhere that was full of family and close friends to go to a place where nothing was certain. In his youth and into early adulthood, he was always looking for something: looking for a job, for the chance to learn, for a way to better himself. In short, he was looking for a future he never thought was possible if he stayed where he was. It’s not that it was a bad life in England, but it wasn’t a life that brought him happiness. He felt that there had to be more to life than what he was experiencing. It would have been easy to just accept the status quo and never venture past his comfort zone, but that decision turned out to be one of the best ones he ever made.
When he landed in Canada, he didn’t know how long he would stay, but by September of that same year it became pretty obvious that he was there for good when he met my mom. He spent the years that followed chasing down good jobs, moving from one stepping stone to another, constantly in search of a way to make something of himself. After all these years it is safe to say that he accomplished exactly that. Today, my dad is retired from a job that he dedicated 27 years to, he and my mom have been married for 35 years, he’s raised 2 daughters and now is the very proud granddad to his first grandson, my nephew. He has countless friends, many of whom have been in his life since he first arrived in Canada, and he’s a proud Canadian citizen.
This Canada Day is an important one because it is Canada’s 150th birthday, but it is especially important in my family because July 1st 2017 marks 36 years that my dad has been a Canadian citizen. I recently asked him about the day he was sworn in and what he remembered most was the people he shared that day with. People from 27 different nations with so many differences in culture, language, religion and way of life all gathered together to share one very important similarity: they would all be Canadians from that day forward. It’s a pretty powerful image and reminds me of what it is that makes Canada so amazing.
Canada is a country where no matter where you come from, what you believe in or who you are, you are welcome. When I watch the news or listen to what is happening in countries all over the world, I become even more thankful that I call Canada home. Canada is a place where you are free to love whomever you wish. You can be whoever you want to be and you’re encouraged to let your true self shine. Canada is a country where we recognize that our differences are not what divide us but unite us and make us stronger. It is a nation that teaches acceptance, tolerance and respect by the way diversity and multiculturalism have become synonymous with the name “Canada”. It is a place where our biggest stereotype is that the people apologize a lot and we are “almost too nice”. And if that’s the worst thing someone can say about my country, that’s okay by me.
The time I spent living in South Korea was amazing and I would strongly encourage anyone who is considering living the life of an expat to do it. When you live in a different country for awhile, there is nothing like that feeling of going back home: You realize the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, the things you found mundane and uninspiring suddenly seem shiny and new and, sometimes, the things you were looking for were there all along – you just needed a new perspective to appreciate it.
If it weren’t for my dad’s decision to risk it all in the hopes of a better future, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I do now. Because of his sacrifices, my sister and I grew up knowing that hard work and dedication lead to rewards. He taught us that you don’t have to settle for your circumstances; if you’re not satisfied, there is always a way to change it. I think my dad made the best choice in choosing Canada as his home. That choice ensured that I would have a safe future, free health care, equal rights and opportunities, access to great education, some of the best wine, beer and maple syrup you can find and, of course, good manners. Sounds pretty great to be Canadian, eh?