Updated: Jun 12, 2019
1967 – What a year it was for me in more ways than one! The Maple Leafs had won the Stanley Cup in May, I took my first tentative step in my new homeland in June, Canada celebrated its 100th Anniversary on July 1st and I started dating my future husband, Bert in August.
It’s thrilling to be celebrating my 50th anniversary here along with Canada’s 150th and what an experience it’s been. There were only a handful of Chinese from Jamaica that lived in Toronto back then. No one in their sane mind would willingly leave a country of warmth and perpetual sunshine to go to a country known for its cold and snow and everyone in Jamaica knew me (my maiden name was Chin) or so I thought in my younger days, and here I was going to a land of strangers. But it was a land of friendly strangers. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t look like the typical Chinese from China as I was tanned, but people would strike up conversations with me. ‘Where are you from?’ I was constantly asked. My first encounter was on the sidewalk in front of Union Station just a couple of days after I landed. I stopped someone to ask for directions and ended up having a conversation to explain my background. I took a couple more steps to the traffic light at Front and Bay and was asked once again. I got disbelieving looks and the usual ‘You don’t look Jamaican.’ I owe a lot to my Chinese-Jamaican heritage for helping me to settle in this country I now call home. It was an ice-breaker as I found people were courteous and helpful, eager to learn about Jamaica and how my ancestors left China to go there.
My three sons were born in Scarborough and my eldest, Darren at the tender age of four years old was told by his kindergarten teacher that his parents couldn’t have come from Jamaica. He asked us one day if we were telling the truth as his teacher did not believe him. Believe me, I set her straight pretty fast. Up to this day my sons love to tell new friends and acquaintances that their parents were born in Jamaica, just to see the look of surprise on their faces.
Yes, we as Chinese-Jamaicans living in Canada are unique, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Happy 150th Anniversary, Canada!