Becoming Canadian

Becoming Canadian

By Job Patstone

Andrew Greenfield, British subject, began married life with Caroline, his Canadian wife, back in the fall of 2001. They made their home in Surrey, in a leafy commuter town just outside of London, England.

Two children soon followed. They (the children) were lucky enough to have two nationalities from birth.
How Andrew and his wife met and ended up in the UK is another story for another time perhaps.

In early 2009, with the economic crisis in full destructive swing, and the situation in the UK becoming more and more precarious and uncertain by the day, the couple pulled up stakes and moved their family to Canada.

It was a brave decision and didn’t come easy; since Andrew’s family were in the UK, it meant leaving them behind to start a new life across the pond as the expression goes, some 6,000 km away.

Canadian_CitizenThe decision to come to Canada rather than another country was a more or less reasonable one since three of the four family members were already Canadian. The kids would have no problem adapting or being accepted since they had dual citizenship.

Where to settle in the new country however was a more serious dilemma because, Caroline’s parents were in Quebec City, but Andrew also had extended family in Ottawa, Ontario. Quebec City is a predominantly French speaking centre, whereas Ottawa, Canada’s capital city is more bilingual in nature. The choice of where to settle was challenging considering that Andrew spoke no French when they touched down at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on that bitterly cold, frozen and snowy day in mid-January those few short years ago.

After some discussion the decision was made to stay in Quebec City for a while. His wife’s parents put them up for a time until they found their feet and a place to live of their own.

They had visited Quebec City several times over the previous eight years. This helped them to be more comfortable and familiar with the area.
For Andrew’s children, language wasn’t a problem, since their mother always spoke to her daughters in French and their father, in English. For Andrew however, it was going to be a challenge to integrate into a full-blown francophone society where the English language at one time was even considered taboo and where it snows at least five months in any given calendar year.

Almost six years down the road and five winters later, Andrew has started three businesses, employs a good number of local people and feels comfortable and safe in his new surroundings. Why and how did he manage to overcome the odds against him and integrate sufficiently into a different and sometimes hostile environment where he, not only lives in peace, but also contributes to his adopted land? Andrew sums that up here “Positive thinking, a thick skin, a belligerent attitude when faced with the perceived notion of certain people seemingly wanting/expecting me to fail, and an innate desire to succeed.’’

Andrew wasn’t going to let the language barrier hinder his progress either. He had a young family, he had good people around him and he had an entrepreneurial spirit burning away inside.

He decided to immerse himself in the language of Molière and put his career on hold for the first year in his new country. He spent months at Université Laval during the day and running concurrently, took additional French classes at a local educational establishment two nights per week. Add to that living in a French home, and working weekends in a Quebec-based company to hone his spoken French skills, it all amounted to almost 12 months on a self-imposed immersion programme.

At the same time he made some francophone friends and forced himself to use the language at every opportunity, of which there were many. This was all well and good, but Andrew wanted more (for himself and his family).

The more he became integrated, the more he saw that the local population had a thirst for the English language. It was bubbling away under the surface.

Many of his French speaking friends were able to communicate in English but Andrew sensed they wanted the chance to do so on a more regular basis. Improving their language skills as they went about their working and personal lives.
Opportunities began to present themselves and they were quickly acted upon.

There really was no looking back. He found out how and where to start a language school, which was pretty much from his basement. Quebec government accreditation and a translation service soon followed.
Slowly but surely things started coming together. Andrew was even doing the teaching himself at one point until he was able to find good teachers and administrative staff who could help him expand. This was done progressively and positively. Always with an eye on ‘what comes next.’

One thing lead to another and a news and informational portal (LifeinQuebec.com) in English soon followed.

Knowing that the younger generation spends most of their time getting information about pretty much everything through the internet, he had a feeling that such a website would prove beneficial. Detailed, thorough research bore this out. LifeinQuebec.com was born, and from that the now popular lifestyle publication Life in Québec Magazine appeared.

As if this wasn’t enough Andrew eventually needed a place where he could operate all these products from, other than in his now cluttered basement. He opened his third business, an English bookstore, located in a shopping centre, not too far from his family home.

All three businesses are thriving and Andrew says that things would, “without a doubt have been completely different” if they had settled somewhere else where the language was not such an issue. He is (rightly) extremely proud of what he and his family have achieved, where they are, and where they intend to go.

Canadian_FamilySays Andrew ‘’Anyone moving to a new environment, no matter where that is, really should try their best to embrace it, open their eyes, and see what is on offer. In addition, see what you can do for the environment where you now find yourself.” He continues ‘’You have to have realistic expectations and face facts. Anyone who moves to a French-speaking part of the world, whose first language is not French, is going to find it tough. When going for job interviews, be under no illusion that no matter how qualified you are, you are up against locals. Locals, who can often speak at least reasonable English if need be. That’s certainly the reality here in Quebec. Once that realisation hits it hits hard. I think this is why many Anglos start their own businesses. I’d advise anyone moving to Quebec or thinking of moving here to take their blinders off, and knuckle down and learn French. It’ll not happen overnight and it’s a long, hard slog. You have to accept it and get on with it though. If you’re prepared to do that, life here can be wonderful.’’

It would appear that for some, Canada is the land of opportunity and can and does offer the ‘North American Dream’. If an opportunity arises, you can allow your entrepreneurial spirit to roam free.

Yesterday on September 29, surrounded by family and friends, Andrew went in front of an immigration judge where he proclaimed his allegiance to Canada and the sovereign. Today September 30, 2014 he awoke as a Canadian citizen. He had been waiting for the occasion for some time, and now that it has finally arrived, he considers his life here so far as ‘mission accomplished’ and is very privileged and proud to call himself a Canadian.

Andrew is certainly very thankful of what Canada and the province of Quebec has offered himself and his family to date.

Andrew says, “I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of my family, my friends and the exceptional people around me at work” and wishes to thank them all.

As for the future, he’s going to keep thinking positively, help his kids in their many sporting endeavours and enjoy a pint or two, whenever he has time.

Let’s see what the next five years brings.

Categories: Opinion

About Author

Job Patstone

Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife. He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.

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