Migrating to a new country is a stressful and anxiety-ridden process, but grown-ups are expected to be able to deal with the stress. What about young immigrants, though? How do we prepare a child, already in a very vulnerable position, for life in a country where the language and culture may be quite different and alienating? The Calgary Board of Education provides programs to support students and their families as they navigate life in Canada.
Among the over one million refugees in Canada are individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+), often fleeing an unwelcoming or dangerous country. The last person criminally charged for homosexual practices in Canada was Everett Klippert in 1967. Since 2005, all sexual and gender identifications and same-sex marriages have been recognized in Canada. But this is not the case in many countries, where it is not only illegal to express non-heteronormative gender and sexual identities, but such identifications can result in physical violence or death. This is one of the reasons many seek refuge in a more welcoming country and why organizations like the End of the Rainbow Foundation exist.
I moved to Canada in 1980, at six years old, to Richmond, BC, 7294 kilometres away from my birthplace of Ormskirk, England, just outside of the port city of Liverpool. My family only had a few work friends for support. Little Tom, sounding like an English version of Mickey Mouse, began navigating a new country and culture that has brought me, 42 years later, to writing this article or open letter to you.
Immigrating to a new country is a bit like learning on a new job. Your education has hopefully prepared you for life in the country of your origin and has probably taught you little bits and pieces about other countries. But when you’re preparing to move to one of those countries, you must have more knowledge before leaving home. Here are some of the things immigrants thought they knew about Canada until their experience proved otherwise.