By Esther “Essie” Wambui
July 1st of every year is Canada Day and yes, there is more to Canada Day than the fireworks, barbecues and time away from work to relax with friends & family.
On July 1st 1867, a new country was born when the four provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick formed Canada, and Ottawa was chosen as the new capital of the country. John A Macdonald became the first Prime Minister and according to canadahistory.com, “The celebrations went on well into the evening with lights, lamps, bonfires and fireworks lighting the parties and the sky….. the colonies had been brought together as one state with responsible government in the form of the Canadian Parliament”.
At the time, Canada had approximately 3.3 million citizens, mainly in Ontario, with about 42% being of the Catholic faith (mainly of French and Irish descent). Most of the others were of English Protestant descent. Montreal was the largest city with about 100,000 people.
In the next ten 10 years, Canada would expand to the Pacific Coast.
Canada has definitely come a long way, witnessing a steady growth in her population, but a more drastic change in this population’s diversity. Word around is that in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, you can find a person from every country on earth.
This diversity includes Kenyans, who initially migrated here for education, but more for varied other reasons over the years. Many have embraced the opportunity to become Canadian citizens and with Kenya now accepting dual citizenship, the number of Kenyan Canadians (coined term KENYADIANS) continues to grow.
I reached out to some, curious to know the significance of attaining Canadian citizenship. As you will see in the following anecdotal statements, these five Kenyadians pinpoint shared yet divergent perspective to what this citizenship means to each of them. For me, a common and notable observation appears to that Canadian citizenship has given these individuals the power to participate in various capacities, in the growth and development of this great nation and their home away from home.
Happy Canada Day Kenyadians and remember to sing “oh Canada” on this 148th birthday!
When I came to Canada as a student, citizenship wasn’t on my mind. I thought I’d be here only for school and then back home. I loved being in Kenya, there is something beautiful about belonging somewhere – you identify with so much that’s going on around and you can navigate uncertainties & hardships. Lifelong friends, close immediate & extended family make life such a rich experience – why would I want to trade that? What for? The almost 6 months of winter, being female & ‘becoming’ a visible minority, learning new cultural dynamics corporate & otherwise that are very different from Kenya, developing new friendships & ‘family’ away from what I’ve known for years. How does this even work? Will anyone understand my jokes?……
After 3 years though, I embraced the possibility of developing my roots here. Initially it was driven by opportunity but with time I also developed friendships and grew a Canadian ‘family’. I learned to navigate it all and better yet found freedom and strength in figuring out who I was in an environment that silently puts pressure on your worth and value, race withstanding. I’ve often thought that my children and every generation after that – God willing, might be grateful that their matriarch paved the way for them to be part of a universal culture. To be Kenyan-Canadian (Kenyadian) and the blessing that comes from having such a rich heritage will be an awesome contribution to the global fabric that we are all a part of. Maybe they will say; “Our lives are enriched with access to education, many opportunities and we value and embrace diversity and have so much to give back of ourselves because she stayed…”
–WK., a Kenyadian
The thing I like most about Canada is also one that is in stark contrast to our mother country Kenya. I see Canada as an economic equalizer for everyone who arrives, both rich and poor. It doesn’t translate to mean that everyone is suddenly equal just by virtue of being on Canadian soil. Rather, it means that there are immense opportunities here such as in education and enterprise resources, which are mostly accessible and open doors to fresh beginnings.
– Mr. Maina, CEO of ZOOMPesa Money Transfer Service
Note to Self: ‘Humility is the true key to success’.
Personally I am very grateful for all the accomplishments Canada has continued to offer me, including dual citizenship (of my land Kenya and now a naturalized Canadian citizen). I have come to realize that all we humans need opportunity to achieve a good life. Thus, as I celebrate my citizenship, in addition to the rights and responsibility that it offers; I cannot forget those ‘scattered all over the boarders (with various visas or not) and those living among us, yet unable to access these opportunities. Although we leave our homes for better pastures abroad, it is important to eliminate the mentality that we can only do better abroad!
I ask God to keep me humble, kind and gentle to those whose dreams have been shut down by “the system”. Let’s continue to recognize that sometimes, our social positioning can be unfair to some people. Consider the relevance of ableism, racism, politics, economic status, psychological (mental health) and social conditions in the lives of others.
– Wangari Mwangi in Ontario
It is hard to summarize a 10-years stay in a great country. Becoming Canadian citizens on 20thJune 2013 was one of the greatest achievements in our life. Not only was it prestigious but with it also came the duty and mandate to serve this country and be part of shaping its destiny through voting; a valuable tall order that will continue to engage our hopes and dreams.
Canada’s positive stand on embracing multiculturalism continuously enables our family to enjoy bits of flavour both pertaining to our mother country Kenya, as well as other cultures from around the world. During the various cultural events, our children enjoy interacting with other Kenyans living here and as parents gives us an opportunity to expose them to environments where Kenya’s other official language – Swahili – is spoken. This becomes an additional channel for them to embrace their roots, as they flourish in the Canadian education system.
Oh Canada, thank you for opening your arms wide open to us!
– Kenyadian Family in Ontario
“Growing up in Canada in my early years I knew little of Canada’s true history, its political parties, its foreign policy, its treatment of indigenous peoples & migrants, its breathtaking landscapes and diverse populations, and much more. In the last few years these topics have taken a central focus for me both personally and professionally. As a newer citizen of Canada I find I have a voice which I can use to engage MPs and fellow Canadians on exercising our Rights and Responsibilities as Canadian citizens to advance social justice for all, both for our times and for future generations.
– Mueni Udeozor – An International Development Professional based in Toronto
What does Canadian citizenship mean to you? Please share with us…
– By Essie Wambui