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Shaping New Life in Canada

What comes after the immigration to Canada? This is an overview of accomplished and energetic Canadians who have had their beginnings elsewhere. As members of the generation that have traded one homeland for another, they are a link between the ancestors from the old country and the Canadian-born descendants. Their unique generation has contributed an untold wealth to the Canadian economy, society and culture. All experienced a challenge of giving up one passport for another, many risked their security for the futures of their children.

"What is this country called Canada? First, it is not America, even though the Poland of my childhood made no distinction between Canada and America. But Canadians are subtly different. You can see it in our culture, which is much more than a sum total of English and French. There are so many other people who have contributed to make Canada what it is. The most important thing about Canada is this: there is a place for differences. Most countries do begrudgingly allow for the existence of other cultures, but often these cultures are relegated to the margins of the society. In Canada it doesn't have to be so. Here everyone can participate in and lend their voice to the mainstream. If you look at countries as France and Germany, there remains to this day a distinction between "the French" (or Germans) and "all the rest", even so "all the rest " are immigrants who reside there for many years."

"I can be Canadian even though I'll always be Dutch too - I lived the first 35 years of my life as a Dutch person. I couldn't erase that if I wanted to, and I don't want to.

But our children, that 's a different story. We're the generation that paved the way, they're the generation that blended in, and their children will be true Canadians, Canadians to the bone.

When you come to a new country, it is important to come well prepared, to know exactly what you are getting into. People, who didn't prepare themselves mentally, have consequently had a difficult adjustment. It is also important to keep strong ties between yourself and the family you have left behind, and go back for special occasions, it is costly, true, but also priceless.

I love Prince Edward Island, the beauty, friendliness and caring of the people. Here people are polite and have time for you. Charlottetown is only 15 minutes away for those times when we need to be there. My children, 2 of whom are married, all live on the island. Life is quite perfect. Canada has so many opportunities for those not afraid of working and giving their best. I was able to turn my hobby into a successful business that will take me right to my retirement.

The opportunities for my children are endless. My oldest and his wife now own their dairy farm on the island a dream that would have never been realized in Poland. My daughter and her husband have come back to the island to grow potatoes. My third child hasn't quite decided on his future and my youngest will probably end up on this farm. Because we immigrated, they can now own land, work the land and choose their livelihood and lifestyle. We are here to stay. This is the only place for us."
-Martina Ter Beek

"There is much about Canada that makes it a great country to live in - our health care and social programs, a low crime-rate, a relatively uncorrupt political system. But we have our challenges here too, unity being the most urgent one. It would be difficult to maintain any form of unity if Quebec separates. It's obvious that also I no longer feel a little mental tug-of-wars that seem to be so typical for those who have come here from somewhere else and lived in other places. I can say without hesitation that there are still plenty of good reasons for immigrants to come to Canada. Here you will find opportunity in the less competitive atmosphere then in the United States. If you are a member of a visible minority you will notice some prejudice, but it's not an insurmountable obstacle. Fortunately, covered racism is usually soundly condemned by the majority.

The bottom line is you must be prepared to work very hard, whether you are a doctor, teacher or carpenter. And you'll have to be good. If you are good, people will always come to you."
-Dr. Ranjit Kumar Chandra

"I have done the immigration thing four times, and it's a process of growing and changing that requires much soul-searching and self-analysis. There are no shortcuts. Based on my experiences and work with immigrants, I know that newcomers can't expect the mainstream to accept them if they aren't prepared to change something of themselves too. You adapt by learning to change while remaining true to the person you are inside. And that's how in the end you might achieve some semblance of contentment.

Is my transition between the old world and the new over? I don't know, it depends on what day you ask. Once you've known another place you carry that with you, forever.

I think I belong in Alberta. I feel more comfortable here than anywhere else. It's green, and it's clean, and the landscape goes on and on. The people are genuine; this place has a big heart. I have gone from one home to another and put down roots by adopting the special people I have met and embracing them as a "family". It helps me to cultivate a sense of belonging as I journey through life."
-Nena Jocic-Andrejevic

"When it comes to deciphering our new emotions about our sense of place after two decades of living here there are many layers to wade through. On the one hand we left much behind, but on the other hand we have always been forward-looking and we approached our moves with the same attitude. I feel a strong and fervent a Canadian as someone who was born here.

I've adopted this land and yet often when I sing the Canadian anthem, it brings tears to my eyes. It's just an emotion: this land is my land. But is it really my land?

If I have to stop and think about that, am I simply reflecting and equilibrium of sorts, with one foot here and the other back there. But a home and history elsewhere does not suggest that I cannot or do not love and embrace Canada. I can and I do. However, there will always be differences, for example, I will never speak like a Canadian who was born here, and I am comfortable with that.

There are new Canadians who have great difficulty making the emotional break from their former homes. They mostly continue to live the way they lived in their old country. And also they are withholding themselves from the opportunities to be reaped in their new homeland they can carry on in this manner indefinitely but the trouble begins when they try to impose this cultural and societal atmosphere on their young people. It's a battle they can't win and often their approach backfires by alienating the next generation. I love Manitoba. As our license plate suggests, Manitobans are friendly people, and we were made to feel very welcome when we first arrived - by our church, our neighbourhood, our community.

Ever since I can remember I've always had a positive image of Canada in my mind. Growing up in Trinidad our Christian Girls in Training leaders were missionaries from Canada and they were always telling us wonderful things about their country. So we developed an easy sense of familiarity with Canada, based entirely on the stories and impressions they shared with us. When we reached university age they talked up the Canadian universities, McGill, Mount Ellison, the list goes on. And since Trinidad has only one university it felt natural for many people including my sister to come to Canada for their post-secondary education. After graduation my sister went back to Trinidad to teach, but eventually decided to return to Canada. Same with my brother, he married a Canadian-born woman from a small prairie-town.

A lot of people think of Canada as a land of milk and honey and for many it is, but my standard of living in Trinidad was comparable to the Canadian standard, my parents were business people and I never lacked anything as a child. My husband and I both had teaching jobs, so we were doing well. We gave up everything to come to Canada and we count the years we spent trying to get back on our feet here as being among our most difficult. We were fortunate because we had a family support system already in place when we arrived.

For those who come without any language it's so important to start taking language training right away. Communication is the key factor to getting settled-in, finding your way around and being able to express yourself."
-Diana Dwarka

"When we came to Canada from Taiwan, it helped that we spoke some English, knew quite a few people from Vancouver's sizable Taiwanese-Canadian community and didn't have to worry about finances. And it helped that we could go back to Taiwan whenever we felt like it. But also significant, we gave ourselves a mission to focus on, which helped to integrate us into our new community as people with a new contribution to offer. We were well received in our neighbourhood and we liked Vancouver right away, its beauty, its multicultural flavour and the open-heartedness of its people. In America you are expected to learn, conform to and do things the American way, which is essentially a version of the British way. But in Canada your culture and religion are respected. Canadians are open-minded and secure enough to accept others who might not be the same in some ways. But that's what Canada is recognized for around the globe, and Canadians receive preferential treatment in many countries because of bad recognition. If my generation is unique in any way, it might be that we possess richer tradition to what the next generation, the first generation to be reared far from the original motherland will have. Here children will seem to have more room, more leeway for growing up. When I was brought up the words of our parents were orders. You obey without question but now I see my generation of parents showing more devotion to their children.

I am blessed by what I do and I am fortunate to be in a position where I can devote my time to compassionate work. I don't say this because I'm noble, but rather because the opportunity to serve continues to enlighten me and feed my spirituality. I look around me and see hundreds of people not limited to our organization, moved to do the same. And Canadians seem to do this readily that's one of the reasons I'm proud of my new citizenship and cherish my new homeland."
-Gary Ho

From "People in Transition "
Written by Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic
Published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd., 2001

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