As we move into a new year I would like this week’s column to be a departure from my regular financial writing. I am grateful for many things in my life and one of them is to be living in Canada. I believe that a country is defined not by it’s mountains, rivers, oceans or sunsets but rather by it’s people. As I look forward to a new year I wanted to express my thanks to Canada and the people that live within her.
My wife and I with our two daughters emigrated to Canada from South Africa in February 1998. We were in our mid-30s with our two girls aged two years and five months. Emigrating was an extremely emotional decision, imagine for one minute having to leave your Canada due to violent crime and corruption, you don’t really want to leave but you know that another country can provide you with a better life, safety and greater opportunities for your kids. You sell your home, cars and arrange for some furniture to be shipped. You leave family and friends behind and you are told by some people that you are joining the “chicken run.” You arrive with a few suit cases, not much cash and no job, but you arrive with hope, which is more valuable than anything you own.
We arrived in Vancouver on a dark and gloomy February day on a flight from London, England. We flew via London to break up the long trip to get to the other side of the earth, our first leg was Johannesburg to London. I remember us standing in the long line up waiting to go through immigration with our young family visibly tired from the long trip. A young customs lady sitting in an office noticed us, she walk over to an unused booth and called us over.
She processed our landed immigrant papers and looked up and said the three words that I will never forget “Welcome to Canada.” I almost reached over the counter to hug her but did not want to get arrested 10 seconds after officially becoming a landed immigrant. At that stage I did not know what Canada’s policy was with regards to hugging customs officials, quite frankly I still don’t know.
I do not know who the young lady was but she will never know how much her actions meant to us as a family going through a very difficult change in our lives, and this was the start for me in defining who Canadians are.
The first year in Canada was not easy. We had to use our savings to subsidize our income and there were definitely some days that we thought we should never have moved, but we persevered. We were surprised that Canadians did not treat us any differently because we were immigrants. We learned Canadians understood this was a land built by immigrants and some even admired us for making the bold move.
We became proud Canadian citizens in March 2002, which again was a pretty emotional and uplifting experience. My career break in Canada came in April 1999 when I was hired by Franklin Templeton Investments and I could once again do the job that I was familiar with prior to leaving South Africa. This was familiar territory for me and I excelled in my new job. In 2009 I got the opportunity to become a business owner and grabbed it with two hands and this is where I am today. From an immigrant’s perspective Canada is an incredible country with wonderful people. I have to just smile when I read or hear people complaining because I know that they have no idea how good they have it.
I would like to thank all Canadians for their assistance, compassion and understanding and for taking me and my family into your family, we will always be grateful to you.
Happy new year Canada.
Written by Stuart Kirk, CIM
Stuart Kirk is a Retirement Planning Specialist with Precision Wealth Management Inc. The opinions expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Precision Wealth Management Ltd. For comments or questions Stuart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-954-0247.