In honour of Canada Day, a short post on a new Canadian’s reflections of this country.
After 2 short exploratory visits, Canada became my permanent home in 2004, just over 10 years ago.
After the trauma of the illegal and violent farm takeovers in Zimbabwe, we had to find a new country. At our age it was a case of out of Zimbabwe – out of Africa, we did not have time on our side to run the risk of re-building our lives only to lose everything again when another African country self-destructed.
We both had British citizenship, Sue through her British born parents and me from being born in London. I had only lived in England until age 5, only visited the country twice, once as a child and once in 1998 for my son’s wedding. Sue had spent a year there as a young adult after leaving school. Neither of us wanted to move there. We wanted to stay in a warm climate, we thought of Australia because it was still in the Southern hemisphere, had many similarities to our Southern African way of life not least a similar type of English language. It also had a similar legal system, commercial organisation, political structure and vehicles were driven on the left side of the road.
Most importantly, many of our friends and fellow Rhodesians and South Africans had moved there over the previous two or three decades. The trickle of emigrants from an increasingly lawless and collapsing Zimbabwe after the farm invasions started in 2000 had turned to a flood.
We were too old, did not have the necessary qualifications for the favoured categories of immigrants and for obvious reasons did not have the million dollars needed for a bond to get us into the country without those qualifications.
New Zealand, South and Central America, certain Asian countries were all rejected for security, climate, language or economic reasons.
The South Eastern, Southern or South Western USA seemed ideal, but no contacts, the time and expense of immigration lawyers put an end to those thoughts.
My elder son had married his wife in England. Although British born, she had lived her entire life in Ontario, Canada and only returned to England two years before they met. They moved back to Ontario in 1998. When we were going through the 3 years of intimidation and chaos in Zimbabwe, my son suggested we consider Canada.
After we both travelled on a preliminary visit in early 2003 to see if we could survive the winter, and my second visit later that year, we decided to apply to immigrate. Because of our unusual status as virtual refugees, we were permitted to apply under “Humanitarian and Compassionate” grounds, which meant that we could apply from within Canada and remain here while our application was considered.
That is how we ended up here, not exactly by choice, but with gratitude that we did have somewhere safe and civilized to live. After some months, our applications were approved, we became permanent residents, started earning incomes and when we had accumulated the required number of years residence, became citizens.
How then do we feel on Canada Day?
Mixed feelings. Happy to be living in a country that had many parallels with our own in its formation and contribution to the Allied war efforts in both World Wars. Somewhat mystified that modern Canadians seem to have discarded many of the strengths and values that allowed early Canadians to survive and build a nation under adverse conditions.
Concerned that Canada’s traditional culture of fairness and tolerance has been subverted by political correctness and a trend to reward mediocrity while punishing the strive for excellence and success. That has resulted in many cases of small minorities exerting influence and extracting favourable treatment way beyond any semblance of “fairness”.
That the same trend is apparent South of the border and in large parts of Europe, but not in the emerging world powers of China and India adds to the concern.
Somewhat puzzled that despite the obvious close geographic, economic and cultural ties between the two North American neighbours, it is seen by many as “politically correct” to be anti – American.
It is easy to fall into the “Whenwe” trap. “when we were in……… we did it this way / things were better / easier / cheaper”. A criticism we in Rhodesia aimed at recent refugees from the chaos of newly Independent African states of Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia as they drifted down to our peaceful, prosperous, stable country. A criticism that was in turn directed at us when we were forced to move to South Africa for the safety of our families after the transition to Zimbabwe.
We try hard to avoid that trap, but at times it is not easy.
That is why we have mixed feelings on Canada day. Gratitude for our new home, appreciation of the many wonderful people we have met since arriving here, thankful for all the help we have received. But tinged with regret that we were forced to leave our own country. Saddened that had the Western powers, including Canada, stood up for decency, supported their allies from WW2 and not sided with terrorism, we would still be living at home in what was once one of the most peaceful countries in the world.
Despite that, we are happy to be here, enjoy living here and by a miracle survived last winter.
Will we ever become as patriotic about our new country as we were of our former?
Will we spend the rest of our lives here? Who knows?
Life is a series of adventures, our next ones might take us over new horizons.
The trick is to keep looking forward and not fall into the “Whenwe” trap.
image courtesy of janoom028 / freedigitalphotos.net