“I was born in the Philippines. When I was 5 years old, I moved to Nigeria, where my dad was working as a doctor. Nigeria was a very diverse country, with many different cultures. We also spent one year in Chicago. Our parents spoke to me and my siblings in English so we could communicate wherever we went.
I moved back to the Philippines after 10 years to go to university, but by then I had lost the language and no longer felt like I belonged in my own country. Even though it was my home, I was treated differently.
I got married in Manila in 1983. By 1988, pregnant with my third child, I decided to move to the US, where my parents and siblings lived. I managed to get a job as a pharmacist’s assistant in downtown Manhattan. During the summer, if I couldn’t find a babysitter, my children would travel from Jersey City to the World Trade Center to wait for me to finish work. In 1993, there was an incident at the World Trade Center near where I worked — fortunately, I was late for work and was not impacted. The attack made me realize how easily my peace of mind could be shattered. I decided at that point I wanted to raise my children somewhere else. We always pictured some place more open, and closer to nature.
I heard Canada was welcoming pharmacists, so we decided to apply for immigration there. We moved to Mississauga in 1999. The first thing we did was visit the CN Tower. Canada felt like a very different place than the US — people were welcoming and pleasant. It was a very easy transition for our family, maybe because we already knew the struggle of moving to a new place.
To me, Canada is like one big family. Your neighbours, anyone you meet — they are welcoming and offer you a sense of belonging, no matter where you are from. Here, you can be different, you can express your values and culture, and still find ways to contribute. Canada has given us so much, and we just want to be able to give back. We hope we can give this legacy to our children, grand-children and our great-grand-children.” — Belinda, Niagara Falls/ Upper Canada Treaties