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My Canadian Immigrant Story Begins With The Loss Of My Father

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My dad always wanted to move to Canada so he could provide a better education and a better life for his family. He wrote a letter to one of my uncles in Toronto who was more than willing to help.

My uncle got in touch with an immigration officer and secured a visitor's visa for my dad. I was only five years of age when the day came that Dad flew to Canada in pursuit of our better future. At that time, Pierre Trudeau was Canada's prime minister.

canadian airport
(Photo: Tillsonburg via Getty Images)

Thinking back on our life in India, before we came to Canada, I recall a modest-sized house with four rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a little room my dad used as a post office. He was a postmaster.

I lived in that house with my parents, brother and four sisters.

We weren't rich or poor. Just a nice, happy, loving family. But Dad always believed a real future for his family could not be found in India, but in Canada.

It took 11 years until Dad was granted landed immigrant status. He wrote to us saying he was going to visit us and we were finally moving to Canada. But his visit back home never came.

By the time my father received approval for himself and his family to immigrate to Canada, the stress he experienced during that long wait, the constant worry about being sent home, his worrying about his family back home in India -- it all took a toll on him.

senior sikh
(File photo: Donald Iain Smith via Getty Images)

He became quite ill. He suffered high blood pressure and developed a heart problem and diabetes. Sadly, he died of a heart attack before he could bring us to our new home in a new country.

I was five years old when he left us and 16 when he died. My memories of my dad are the vague, foggy memories of a small child.

My uncle who had helped Dad get to Canada once again came into our lives as an angel. He did his best to support us and played a major role bringing about my family's success here in our new country.

Today, I'm 47 years old and Canada has been my home for almost 28 years. To this day, whenever I experience difficulties in life or in my career, I feel sadness and regret at not having my father me to help me through the difficult times.

These memories and emotions came back to me as I watched our current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, being reunited with a Syrian refugee family he had met when they first arrived in Canada a year earlier.

Trudeau had tears in his eyes. I'm sure his emotion at that moment was genuine. But if I'm being honest, it also upset me.


My immigration story has something in common with countless others: it is one of heartbreak and hardship. And this has been true throughout the many decades of immigration to this country, stretching back over a century. It is also true that with each new generation the process becomes more efficient, humane and effective.

Perhaps I'm being selfish, but after watching the PM's interaction with that family, I can't help but be in a way envious of those recent immigrants and refugees.

My own experience began with the loss of my father, and was characterized by hard work, sacrifice and little government support. I don't begrudge new refugees or immigrants a better system, but I do feel anger watching a politician parading his emotions in front of the press.

We just want a fair opportunity to have a decent life in a great new country.

Canada is a wonderful country. I continue to learn new things, confront new challenges and enjoy new experiences.

But still so many times I can't help but think about how my dad was taken from us. I miss him and have always felt his loss.

I don't want or need political tears. None of us new Canadians do. We just want a fair opportunity to have a decent life in a great new country. And we are willing to work for it. My family did, and I am sure the majority of our Syrian refugees will.

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