Upon arrival from Paris I knew I had landed in my home, within my nation, with my people because of the apologies. You’d be surprised the number of “sorrys” you hear from the time it takes you to disembark, walk on the flat escalators, and line up at customs. It’s a common stereotype that Canadians are polite, accommodating, and accepting and thank goodness that some of it is true. I would be nowhere without your rights, privileges and political freedom. As an immigrant I just want to thank you for being gentle with me, being kind to my family and allowing me to cultivate a sense of belonging.
Being a land of people from somewhere else, it’s as if we’re all figuring it out together. I’m not sure if I’m imagining this feeling of solidarity but Canada has earned her reputation because you allow all of us to co-exist with dignity and respect. My husband always asks me if it’s cold outside and I tell him not to ask because he knows that I’m an immigrant. If it doesn’t feel like a sauna, I will be wearing a jacket. Perhaps it’s because my mother made me wear thermal underwear well into April, but I’m perpetually cold. God, she continued to buy me thermal underwear well into my twenties. She used to tuck it into my luggage after Christmas break when I was about to return to Queen’s. You see, this is just the kind of stuff that immigrants do. But I appreciate that in my country you are not considered to be strange and crazy. If it’s not thermal underwear another newcomer is probably obsessing about wool toques. There’s comfort in that.
My parents were always strategic about my education and social circle. When we first moved to Toronto I attended a very diverse school in the downtown area where we learnt about Black History every week, not just once a year, young girls wore head scarves and we were the children of parents who worked way too hard. It is here that a teacher named Mr. Kennedy changed my life by encouraging me to write, attend enriched classes and told my parents to move to North Toronto. I still remember the moment when during a parent-teacher interview he literally wrote it down on a piece a paper: the “good” schools, having attended Lawrence Park CI himself. That’s the thing about my parents, they are the best. They packed our life into boxes, we moved to the neighbourhood and began a new phase in our life. I can never repay them for their sacrifices because these schools led me to my university, my friends, my life. That’s what makes Canada so special. It has raised a generation of people who have seen their parents create something from scarcity and difficult times. It’s not the immigrant story, many of our parents do the exact same thing.
I’m not only Canadian but a Torontoian, which in my mind is one of the best cities in the world. It’s here that there’s always something to do, people to meet, perspectives to change. So, as I leave you I just want to say, Toronto, you gave me my husband, my kid, my education. I love you and I’ll see you when I see you. Alright Boston, I’m game if you are.
Happy Canada Day.