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All Communities Diaspora Diaries

Why Canada?

By Luis Ramirez-Liberato

As the son of Mexican parents, why they chose to immigrate so far up north remains a mystery to me. Canada, a land of ice and snow, is so different from the Mexican state of Puebla, where they’re both from. In Puebla, snow was only ever seen on top of volcanoes, so seeing snow fall for the first time—soon after immigrating—was something they had only read about in books or seen in films.

Though I was born in Canada, I went to live in Mexico at three-months-old. At four-years-old, I moved back, first residing in Brampton, Ont.

Seeing snowflakes fall from the sky for the first time was dreamy and breathtaking. Seeing snow fall for the second, third and fourth time was still magical but I’d gotten to the point where by the fifth time, the snow had lost its lustre. Seeing snowflakes for the 99th time outside from my bedroom windows only instilled a sense of dread in me, knowing I would probably have to venture outside, weak and weary, to shovel the driveway.

Growing up, television cartoons like Arthur always made it seem like one would get the fabled ‘snow day’ at the first sight of snow, but not in Ontario. Here, only an ice storm would prevent you from having to make the trek to class if you had the misfortune of walking to school through snow piled up to your knees.

I remember once, back in middle school, I fractured my leg around the same time the sidewalks had frozen over with ice, rendering my crutches useless. It was hard showing up to class the next day, knowing that most, if not all of my classmates had seen me crawl my way home.

Spring is never much better. With the geese returning, I’ve often found myself hightailing my way to the train station. I’ve been chased by a flock of them for getting too close to “their turf,” which would seem to be just about anywhere with a square inch of grass.

My mom told me that when she was deciding between immigrating to Canada or the United States, she was drawn by Canada’s safe reputation.

While I don’t want to take the safety we have for granted, it can be hard to appreciate it when so many people around me are teetering on the edge of homelessness. Along with many other first-generation Canadians, I can attest that whatever people are paying for their metre-by-metre shoebox apartment here would probably buy them a full house in their parent’s home country. It might come as a surprise to some, but the average cost of a home in Mexico City is just under $24,000. This news is particularly difficult to hear when you consider that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is as high as $2,620.

But with rent prices soaring, I place my faith in Costco’s $1.50 hotdog to never change, even when everything else is.

However, looking back, I feel grateful to have grown up in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) out of any place in Canada.

When I began to travel during my first year of university, the idea that Canada was the most polite and civil country in North America dispelled as I travelled north. The further I went, the more racism I faced, almost as though I was riding along some grayscale of discrimination.

While visiting a friend outside of the GTA, I sat reading along the curbside, waiting for her to freshen up and get ready. While I waited, people paler than me would stick their heads out their car windows while driving by, nearly crashing as they stared at me in bewilderment that someone like me was in their small town. I felt as though they were looking at me like I was some Sasquatch, rearing its head out in public for the first time in years and maybe they were bewildered all the more that I could read.

It feels strange that even in a country built by immigrants, Canada can still make you feel like an interloper in a place you’ve called home your whole life.

For as many problems as I may have with Canada, be it our dull suburbs or subpar public transportation, it’s still my home. Though there have been many times when this country has caused a sense of frustration for me, it holds a special place in my heart.

1 Comment

  1. Rafael

    Excellent article, highly recommended

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