I was born in a country different from that of my parents. I now find myself living in a country different from the one I was born, or the one my parents were born in. I am an immigrant.
I prided myself on being a citizen of the world – beholden to not one, but to many countries. That was my reasoning for many years, until the 9/11 tragedy pushed Canada into making changes to its landed immigrant policy. It made sense to become a Canadian citizen than to re-confirm my landed immigrant status every five years. Actually, it was a decision that was way overdue.
After passing the test, notification arrived with a date to attend my “you’re a Canadian now” ceremony. I went alone by bus and then streetcar to a nondescript government building at St. Clair & Yonge. No fuss; after all, it was just an ordinary day. Or so I thought.
The room was filled with every shade of skin colour, and with every combination that makes up a family – I was probably one of the few there by myself. Everyone was dressed to impress – little girls in frills and ribbons, the men and boys in their best suits, the women made up and ready for pictures after. Conscious of the momentous occasion about to unfold, faces were solemn though quick to dissolve into tears and smiles.
As I looked around the room at the other newly minted Canadians, I grasped how privileged I was to claim this country as my own. This feeling spiked on my way home. A group of young, uniformed boys entered the bus – perhaps on their way from a school trip. They were black, white, asian, mixed, and south asian boys; an obvious reflection of Canada’s diversity. Their ease with each other, their conversations that switched back and forth in English and French – brought the point home.
Of course, there have been many occasions which have made me proud of living in Canada, even before I could officially call the country my own. Outside its borders I am a proud and vocal advocate for Canada – our health care, our ease with difference, and yes, even our winters. And when watching Toronto glisten at night from a plane descending towards Pearson, I am struck anew by its beauty, and how lucky I am to live and love here.
Yes, I was born in another country but I have chosen to become a Canadian.
I am Canadian. Je suis une Canadienne.
Happy Canada Day!