Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Canada Day

The fact is Canadians understand that immigration, that people fleeing for their lives, that people wanting to build a better life for themselves and their kids is what created Canada, it’s what created North America.” Justin Trudeau   

“We came here for a better life for you,” my father says any time I ask him why we came to Canada. “And your sister and brother.”

“Wouldn’t it have been easier to just move to Greece from Cairo. It was our homeland,” I reiterate. “And so much closer to what we all knew.”

Yes, but Greece didn’t have the opportunities Canada offered. I had a job the day after we arrived, owned a house a few years later, and was accepted and made to feel I belonged. We built a good life here for you and your siblings.”

We usually have this conversation when I miss my culture or it’s too cold outside for a person who was born and spent the first six years of her life in a hot country.

I picture myself as that six year old getting off the boat at Pier 21 in Halifax all those years ago. The images come to me more often now. I blame the fact that I’m a news-junky and therefore rarely disconnected from what is happening in the world.

I’m an immigrant, first and foremost. Canada is my adopted home. Most of my work as a writer focuses on issues of belonging and displacement. I’m the author of a novel that at its heart deals with the European refugee crisis. I’ve been to a refugee detention centre and understand the process pretty well. So you can likely imagine what I think about American immigration policy of late, which sees immigrant children separated from their parents. I won’t take the time here to tell you.

I will say that when the doors closed to my family everywhere else, including the United States (the place my father first applied for immigration) Canada was there. And on this Canada day, I am both thankful we are here and not the place my father mistakenly thought would give him greater opportunities.

And I’m so very proud to be a Canadian. Happy Canada Day!

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