by Trudy Reimer
As I reflect on the 150th Canada Day celebrations the country took part in recently, I cannot help but be thankful for the great blessing it is to be able to call Canada home. My life would look very different if my passport didn’t reflect my Canadian citizenship status.
I crossed the Coutts border on March 19, 1999 into Canada at the age of six, in an old Suburban with my five siblings, my parents, my uncle and a family friend. My uncle and the family friend had taken a trip down to Mexico to pick us up and pack us in along with the few possessions to fill the spaces that were left over. The reason for the move was economic – it was hard to make a living as dry-land irrigation farmers during a drought.
My father had made the trek to Southern Alberta a few months prior to see if the rumoured land of opportunity held true. With the help of my uncle he found us temporary housing, an old mobile home with two bed rooms and one bathroom. At the age of 6, I couldn’t fully comprehend the decision my parents had made. All I knew was that trampoline we had just received for Christmas wasn’t in the back of the Suburban and I wanted to keep stopping for lunch at the restaurant where they gave away toys.
I didn’t realize how fortunate my family was to have received their Canadian citizenship because my grandparents were born in Canada in the early 1900s. I also didn’t realize that my great-grandparents had made the voyage to Canada all the way from Europe. That there is a history of persecution that my people – the Mennonites – have faced because of their faith that have caused them to be so transient.
I started attending school along with my other siblings and learned that I was a minority. My teachers and fellow classmates couldn’t understand me and I dressed differently than the rest of them. I also experienced true kindness and patience as they taught me the English language and took me in. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I watched my parents sacrifice for my family as they struggled to make a start and tried to make their mouths make sounds that were unnatural and foreign. To make sense of new cultural rules, laws, educational system, health care, banking, Alberta weather, and endless other changes to what they were used to.
For these reasons I want to say thank you to Canada. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to go to school, postsecondary education, and be in the work force and contribute to society. Thank you for the prairies that allow me to see the most beautiful lightning storms and sunsets. Thank you for welcoming others that dress differently, eat unfamiliar foods, or speak a language you may not understand. Thank you for allowing me to practice my beliefs and live out my faith. Thank you for accepting my family as one of your own and for doing the same to so many others. Thank you for being my home.
Trudy Reimer is a Community Health Representative with Alberta Health Services who works specifically with the Low-German Speaking Mennonite population. She can be reached at [email protected]