Being Canadian

I recently completed a cross-Canada trip, which took me from Vancouver to as far as Halifax. I saw not only the astonishingly varied landscapes of this vast country but also the diversity of the human tapestry that makes up its population. In Toronto alone, the city’s residents, people from all over the world, speak at least two hundred different languages daily. Foreign-born Canadians make up more than twenty percent of the country’s population.

mapleleaf

The path that eventually brought me to Canada started out very straight. Too straight: school, more school, university, a job in marketing, another job in the same field, and before I knew it my career had spanned fifteen years. Also, the Manila heat was unbearable; I desperately wanted a change.

But while I had chosen Canada, Canada had yet to choose me. The screening process was very thorough. I had to prove myself worthy to be Canadian. This was done by an impassive points system based on education, work experience, family ties in Canada, and a comprehensive physical examination. I scored well, but not quite well enough (mainly because I didn’t have any relatives in Canada to help me with the transition). So I was called in for an interview at the Canadian Embassy in Manila. Most of the interview consisted of asking me in person the same questions asked in my application form. At the end of the interview, the consul told me that, since I was a few points shy, this interview would “make or break” my application.

He asked the final questions:

What do you expect from Canada? I answered, “The same opportunity you will give to the next person. I’m not expecting anything more than that.”

What can you contribute to Canada? I replied, “Love of family and respect for elders. I’ll bring those values with me.”

All this time, the consul wasn’t even looking at me, just typing on his keyboard. I had surprised myself; the answers just came, naturally and without hesitation. The consul then looked up, smiled, and offered a handshake: “Welcome to Canada!”
It was almost twenty years ago, but I still get emotional when I recall those words by the Canadian Embassy official in Manila, and the final interview that made Canada my new home. It was a lengthy, fraught process, one that many have undertaken for different reasons. I feel incredibly lucky to have made the right choice, and grateful that Canada chose me as well.

I’ll always be proud of my Filipino heritage and values that have moulded me as a person, and with equal fervour . . . forever proud of being Canadian.

Edmund Arceo
ZOOM Editor & Publisher

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