100 per cent Canadian

Published July 4 2017

To the Editor

This July we are celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday although the indigenous people consider their country centuries older. I have strong memories of the year Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Our family arrived in Canada a short time before and  settled in the small town of Lachine on the west island of Montreal. I had great difficulties adjusting to my new life in Canada missing family friends and mostly my native language. Living in Quebec meant  learning French and English. I was quite unhappy and homesick and frankly dwelling on it. Made no attempt to find a way out of it.

The school where my two daughters went organized a special evening to celebrate Canada’s 100th anniversary to which I really had not given much thought. My girls were very excited about it looking forward to the costumes they would wear and being out on a school night. I went not knowing how much impact that evening would have. I found a seat in the very back the program started with O Canada I hoped that no one noticed that I did not know the words. The evening was filled with happy children singing dancing reading stories all part of Canada’s history.

I looked in amazement at my kids who were so perfectly at ease and comfortable with all of it. They even had some speaking parts struggled with some words smiled and continued. Nobody would know that they were so new in this land. It occurred to me that they accepted all that was so new to them and were teaching me to do the same. I did although it took me a bit longer and now it is 50 years later. Where did the years go?

I am so blessed and proud to live in this country. I am and feel 100 per cent Canadian. But because of my accent most people think I am not. I just utter two words and the question immediately follows “Where are you from?”

Now 50 years later I answer “from Haliburton.”

Nel van der Grient