“I came to Canada at 3 years old as a refugee. My family is from Somalia and lived for six years as refugees in Kenya. That’s where I was born. We didn’t have a say on which country the United Nations would send us, but my mother was so happy when she learned that we would be moving to Canada. She had learned about Canada while in the refugee camp, and believed it would be the best place for us.
We landed in Edmonton in February, 1994. I remember it vividly. The ground was covered in snow. My older sister tried to convince me the snow was sugar, so I filled my backpack with as much as I could, only to discover later that it all had melted, and was definitely not sugar.
Growing up, I always felt like I was Canadian, the same as everyone else, though I only acquired citizenship in 2011. But, when I became a citizen, it really dawned on me how precarious my past immigration status was. It was difficult to think that I suddenly had ‘rights’ while there are others from similar backgrounds who are still in precarious immigration situations or trying to seek asylum.
I spend a lot of time in government archives, researching Canadian history, particularly instances of marginalization and inequities based on race. What I’m struck by are the parallels between our past and present. Our history is full of examples of people being excluded or persecuted based on their race or background, only for us to acknowledge our errors and sorta apologize decades later.
By knowing our history and acknowledging the legacies of those histories, we can avoid making the same mistakes. To make this country a fairer, more equal place for everyone. The first step of solving a problem is by recognizing that there is one. We still have a long way to go but I’m optimistic for this future. It’s my hope that those in power feel the same way.” — Bashir, Edmonton/ Treaty 6 Territory