Success is individual
I am probably not the only one who, somewhere in the middle of his thinking, has looked at Canada in these terms: “People without exceptional talent, with fewer qualifications and fewer experiences have done well in Canada. So if it’s going well for them, it should definitely be fine for me.”
Who hasn’t spent time gleaning statistics or checking average procedure times? What immigration candidate isn’t as eager as a child on Christmas Eve to be in Canada when they hear that newcomers are finding their first job only a few days after their arrival? We’re comparing each other. We’re reassuring ourselves. But in the end, does it really make sense?
No two immigrants are the same. No two courses are the same. The requirements that had to be met last year may have nothing to do with those that will be effective in a few weeks. Each case is unique. Trying to compare what, by nature, is completely different leads to random conclusions. The unemployment rate among immigrants, the high number of separations and all these announcements on Kijiji/Craigslist of people selling their property to finance a return to square one are there to attest: the success of some does not imply the success of others.
Averages and other statistics are misleading. There is no such thing as a model immigrant! What has been successful for some is by no means a guarantee of success for others. Nevertheless, here are some meetings made in recent months that I find particularly inspiring:
During the holidays, we were invited to the Quebec City area. From the outside, the house looked like everyone else. Nothing exceptional. Until I discover at the turn of a photo, that the discreet mother of the family is the daughter of a head of state. Immediately, I wondered where were the marble walls, the luxury cars and all the bling bling mentioned in people magazines. But it was just an ordinary family in Canada. I like the idea that every immigrant, regardless of his or her past, can forge a new life for themselves. Immigrating is an opportunity to make a fresh start.
“20 minutes from Vancouver, I met P., of Swiss origin. He became a multi-millionaire by selling his portfolio management computer application to a national company. In my knowledge, many Canadians (mostly English speakers) are engaged in a second activity in their basement or garage: cabinet making, painting, ironwork, music classes, hairdressing salon, tax returns, etc. It’s a great idea, I think, to invest the space you have at home. Rather than piling up gadgets and dust, it’s rather clever to make it a playground, become his own boss and who knows how to lay the foundations of a company that will conquer the world.
I met K. in Victoria. His children all grew up in Canada. Sometimes he thinks of introducing them to their Dutch origins. Maybe they’ll make this initiation trip one day. Meanwhile, her sons run a cranberry plantation in their spare time and her youngest is selling on facebook. This gives them a nice extra income to finance their extras: Caribbean cruises, winter sports week, etc. Since we have been in Canada, we too have been trying to develop the entrepreneurial spirit with our children.
- arrived in Sherbrooke in the 1980s to study at university. Today, he heads several businesses. His business is thriving. It can be found in many associations: chamber of commerce, Christmas parade, neighbourhood parties, community actions, etc. A very involved actor in social life, he is also a particularly generous patron. And as if that wasn’t altruistic enough, he still finds time to help newcomers achieve their projects. A former immigrant who in turn helps other immigrants.
- arrived in Quebec a few months ago with her husband recruited from Sri Lanka. She has not been taking French-language courses for a long time, but she must be heard. It’s just awesome! She is now able to do a telephone interview in French when less than a year ago she did not know a word of it. So his CV is relegated to the level of an anecdotal accessory. Just to hear it, we can only be convinced that, in a very short time, it is able to identify a problem, assess its priority and make every effort to solve it. So obviously, in the face of her show of effectiveness, the employers fought for her to offer the job she wanted. Efforts pay a to good use. It is a pleasure to meet immigrants so determined to overcome prejudice. It’s the kind of meeting that makes you always want a lot more. And there are no shortage of challenges: permanent residence, a house, citizenship, six-figure income, a vacation in Cuba, a cottage, an apartment in Florida, etc.
In 1992, P. fled the war with only a few pounds in a suitcase. He landed with his family in the Sherbrooke area. The lack of professional perspective, the complexity of French and the cold pushed them out of Quebec. Currently in Ontario, their eldest is a pilot in the Canadian Air Force and their youngest is completing her medical studies. They have a spacious house, new SUVs in their driveway, a 27-foot boat to enjoy the summer… Yet their gaze is sad, sometimes off. How can we be happy, they tell me, when everything they have reminds them that their village has been literally razed and their loved ones killed before their eyes? The abundance they have here cannot replace what little they have lost in the horrors of war.
Immigrants, we all have a unique story
There may be lessons to be learned from these experiences. But the most important thing for me is this: behind every immigrant, there is an exceptional story to discover. These testimonies, more than anything else, are great motivators in my immigration career. I like to be challenged by the experience of others. So no doubt this year will be another opportunity for new adventures and new and memorable encounters.