In a word
Hope, richness, belonging, open. These are a few of the words some naturalized citizens from across Toronto used to describe their feelings about Canada and their citizenship.
To celebrate Canada Day the Star profiled 10 naturalized citizens, representing 10 different countries. Some were refugees; others came as immigrants. Some have been here for decades; others are newly arrived.
But they all share a common love for the freedom Canada has guaranteed them and the security their citizenship has given them. They place great value on their Canadian citizenship and it has deep meaning for them.
Aisha Daanish, 42, laughed as she recalled how she missed Canada when she went back to Karachi, Pakistan to visit family and friends only a year after she first arrived.
It was an odd and surprising reaction, she confessed. She had spent most of her life in Pakistan. Yet, here she was back in her native land and all she did was miss Canada.
She chose the word warmth to describe a country that has some of the bitterest winters on the planet. But it isn’t the temperature that she’s referring to, but rather the warmth in people’s hearts.
In Pakistan, Daanish, a kindergarten teaching assistant in a private faith-based school in Mississauga, realized it was that warmth she was missing; craving. Even the tiniest gestures of friendship, such as a neighbor advising her and her children to dress warm on a crisp fall day, made her feel she was part of the fabric of the country.
“That really touched me because that’s what Grandmas used to do in my country of origin,” she said, explaining she doesn’t feel she can call Pakistan her home anymore. “This is home now so there has to be another word other than back home.”
From Sri Lanka
Tolerance is the word Keren Stephen chose to represent her feelings about Canada.
“We are mindful,” she said of Canadians. “There is a reluctance to succeed at any cost here. And I guess the whole culture is one of tolerance and including people.
“I like Canada. I like its values. It’s amazing the amount of volunteerism that goes on here.”
The 50-year-old chartered global management accountant came to Canada in 2009 along with her brother, his wife and two nieces from Sri Lanka. They left because of the violence.
“Being in a war area there’s so much activity,” she said. “There’s so much negative. Even if you’re not personally suffering, you hear about others suffering. I was affected, but not directly. You’re living in a war. There is fear, risks.”
After travelling the world for business, she settled on Canada after ruling out the United Kingdom and Australia. “I had heard good things about Canada…One of the key things is values…Canada is a very inclusive country. I wanted to form my home base here.”
She got her Canadian citizenship in November, 2013. And it was momentous. “It was the final signing off,” she explained. “That’s it. You’re there now. You’re a citizen and have obligations. It also gave me the feeling that I can really behave like a citizen…I can call myself a Canadian.”