When I first came to Manitoba some 70 years ago seeking only an education, I could not have anticipated what a whirlwind of a future that would soon follow. I was working towards my two degrees in education and English when a fellow classmate approached me, asking me to dinner. Years, like the Canadian snow, flew by, and before I knew it, I had two degrees, a husband, and a daughter with another on the way.
We were just getting accustomed to our new life as a family when a new opportunity opened the door and invited us in: my husband was offered a new position in Australia. I had never been one to sit still for long and neither had he; we packed our bags and walked on the plane with anticipation and ear plugs.
I think I could have been happy there if things had turned out differently. At times, I still miss the Australian heat and its people, the lifestyle and the ocean. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re unhappy until you wake up and wonder how you got to where you are; you wonder which misstep led to your current state and if it’s possible to retrace your steps and go a different route. My partner and I went our separate ways, our children by my side. I love change, always have. However, having to add those two letters in front of “husband” hurt more than I’d care to admit. When I recognized that it was time for me to find my spark again, I backtracked to Canada 5 years later I'd left, hopeful for a more forgiving life for me and my children.
We landed in Vancouver, filling out copious amounts of paperwork in the process. One form in particular gave me some trouble: a misleading question and a misunderstanding later, I’m standing face to face with an immigration officer who is telling me that come the morning, I’ll have to return to Australia. I pleaded my case, two tired children by my side and was able to buy a few days of time in order to get in contact with legal counsel. What started with an awkwardly phrased question on a form soon turned into a full-scale legal debacle.
As a landed Canadian immigrant, I assumed I would be able to return to the country I called home for many years. However, there had not yet been a ruling on this type of case so the legality of my proposed deportation was unclear. In fact, I was contacted with the hope that I would agree to take my case up to the Supreme Count in order to clarify this discrepancy in the law; I declined. With two young children, I didn’t want to go through the time, money, and energy needed to see that through. Despite this, with the help of a few members of Parliament, a Minister’s permit, and enough phone calls to keep Telus in business for 10 years, I was able to stay in Canada.
Some friends in Calgary took me in while I got settled; I remember taking my children to the mountains where we saw our first moose and roamed the streets of Banff together. A few weeks later, I was fortunate enough to acquire a phone call interview with a principal who was all too excited for an English teacher with my experience; I began work and fell back in love with the craft of education. Working there until the end of the school year, I applied to return to school with the intention of completing my Master’s degree in education. I graduated a few years later with the help of a strong circle of friends who had become my main support system: some I even viewed as family.
Time brought with it my full Canadian citizenship and a long happy life here that I wouldn’t trade for the world. If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to not only expect change, but to embrace in its every form, no matter how difficult: it’s worth it. Looking back, I feel that I have achieved my initial goals in coming here and much much more. I am now retired with a doctorate in education, two fully-grown wonderful children with successful careers of their own, and an endless trove of stories to tell. What else could I ask for?
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Skye Baxter and Beatrice Smith