A showcase of personal journeys to Canada
Sometimes it’s good to get caught
My dad often travelled from New Jersey to Canada to fish and visit his friends at Sharbot Lake, Ontario.
On such a trip in the late 1980s he was invited to a friend’s wedding where he met a woman from nearby Belleville. His friend Frank, an Algonquian fiddle player, described the meeting as “love at first sight.” They stayed in touch and a few years later got married and my dad immigrated to Canada.
Whenever he’s asked about how they met my dad says that he went on a fishing trip and ended up getting caught … by his wife.
Still a little salty
The Marchildon family history in Canada goes back to the French colonial period. My grandfather likes to remind us how the story starts with our paternal ancestor Rene-Henri Marchelidon.
Rene, who was baptized in 1711, came from a peasant family. Not content to farm, he decided to sell salt on the side. But the king of France had a monopoly on salt to fund his armies, so Rene got caught in 1737 and was given a choice: rot in the king’s jail or take a one-way fare on the next boat to New France.
And so, my family has been in Canada for 280 years for trafficking in salt.
My dad has always told us that he was inspired to immigrate to Canada from Morocco after seeing Montreal on display during the 1976 Summer Olympics.
I’ve also grown up hearing about Nadia Comaneci, the 14-year-old Romanian gymnast who was the first Olympic gymnast to score a perfect 10 in 1976. My parents didn’t initially intend to name me Nadia, but settled on it because it’s easier to spell and pronounce in English than their first choice.
My dad put me in gymnastics as a child because of my name, but my mediocrity dashed his dreams of Olympic glory. His aspirations of a gold medal for me have outlived my actual gymnastics career by several decades now.
He doesn’t bring it up too often anymore … when we’re not in Olympic years, that is. I guess I just have to become a doctor, lawyer, or prime minister now.
—Nadia Drissi El-Bouzaidi
Hustlin’ in the 6
My parents immigrated to Toronto from India in the early ‘90s, and their story reflects those of many other immigrant parents.
For example, my dad had an established engineering career in India, but it took him some time to find a stable job when he moved here, in large part because many engineering firms in Toronto didn’t recognize his education and credentials. My parents lived with some extended family for a few months until they found a place of their own, but many days were spent adjusting to not having their close friends, parents, and siblings with them.
Adjusting to a new life isn’t always easy for immigrants, but having the support of relatives, neighbours, and new friends eventually makes you feel right at home.
Not everything to his taste
My dad always had these elaborate stories of growing up as a destitute orphan in Egypt and how he arrived in this country with nothing, which is somewhat exaggerated.
His disdain for ketchup and fast food never ceased, often announcing he had never eaten a McDonald’s hamburger and never would. While sitting in what was called “the immigrant hotel,” where they stuck you when you first arrived, he said he looked out the window at the piles of snow and wished he had ended up in Australia.
But all these years later here I am a ketchup-loving and burger-eating Canadian. Sorry dad.