New Canadians celebrate all year long

For some immigrants, every day is Canada Day

Nikita Malhotra

New Canadians may not be the best people to ask about the excitement of Canada Day, as at least two local representatives are busy celebrating the country every day of the year.

Hyesoon “Haley” Park said they intend to check out the July 1 festivities, but it hasn’t been a big priority in previous years.

In Canada for about nine years, officially becoming a citizen last year, Park said she and her husband and two teenage sons are very proud Canadians who appreciate the opportunities the country provides.

Coming to Canada from Korea when her children were four and eight, she said they adjusted very quickly to the culture and now consider themselves more Canadian than Korean, while she and her husband had a bit harder time.

Similarly Harpal Malhotra and her husband brought their teenage daughters here from India six years ago for an education and she became a citizen five months ago.

They came for the opportunities the country could provide for her and her daughters.

Her daughters were at vulnerable ages, she suggested, 13 and 16, but they easily made friends and excelled in school.

They went to the local high school and her older daughter is now an honours biochemistry at the University of British Columbia. The younger is taking mathematics at Vancouver Island University.

A teacher for 20 years in India, Malhotra said she had to do much of her training again here in Canada but did eventually get a job in the same field, though has been mostly tutoring. 

She had travelled to some of the world’s major port cities with her husband who was in the merchant navy, so the culture shock wasn’t so bad coming from India directly to live in Nanaimo.

Park and her family also came directly to Nanaimo where a friend lived. For them it was a bit of a shock, especially coming from Seoul, South Korea, an urban area of over 20 million people. 

“Yeah I’m a city girl,” she said of the transition to practically rural Nanaimo.

They came to Canada on a one-year work permit and only planned to stay two or three years to learn English, but they ended up applying for permanent resident status.

“The children just grow up Canadian,” she said, pointing out her youngest son was a bit surprised to realize he wasn’t that comfortable speaking Korean on a visit there last year.

They are involved with the local Korean community, attending one of two Korean church services every Sunday, but actually appreciate trying to immerse in the wider culture.

According to Statistics Canada there are about 700 people of Korean decent in the regional district, most of them in Nanaimo, but Park said they don’t tend to stick together the same as they might in larger cities.

She said they like that Canada is such a diverse society and don’t like how Koreans just hang out with Koreans, or Chinese with Chinese, in some bigger cities.

Park did run into a similar immigrant problem as Malhotra — of not having her credentials recognized here. She had a university degree and worked in a bank in India but ended up cleaning houses and now works in a retirement home. 

She is far from bitter, however, excited to be able to offer her children the opportunities of being here.

“If you try very hard there are opportunities, it’s all about how much effort you make,” she said. “We work for our children.”

She does hope the government continues to provide chances for immigrants and she wishes they would actively encourage them to branch out and live in the wider community.

Both women have used the resources of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society’s Immigrant Welcome Centre which will have a booth at Nanaimo’s Canada Day festivities in Maffeo Sutton Park. 

Visit the centre at 101 – 319 Selby Street, Nanaimo. From Parksville call 250-586-1122 or e-mail fo


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