For the #Chronicle150, one thing I really appreciate is when people don’t feel forced to stick to the script.
I met Talia when scouting contributors for this year’s Tales from the 2.9, quickly intrigued when I realised she holds a degree in professional writing from York University!
I’ve developed a real love for the craft over the years, so I immediately respect when others show the same, and I think you’ll see it in Talia’s piece for the #Chronicle150—those years of investment shining through in the story of how she came to Canada and the path to where she is now!
I hope you enjoy Talia’s post below—it’s a great read!
We’ll see you tomorrow for the next post in the #Chronicle150!
My earliest memory of Canada includes a strange collection of items that are surely not uniquely Canadian, but in my mind, are inextricably linked to Canada—flurries, capri pants, and Swedish meatballs.
My family and I moved here sort of accidentally in the fall of 2002. After more than 18 hours driving from Kissimmee, Florida to Toronto to visit my stepfather’s sister and renew his Canadian passport, complications with U.S. immigration led to an unexpected resettlement. Goodbye, Florida sun. Hello, Canadian chill.
It was October, to be exact, during one of those years when winter crept in early. Lawns were still covered in red, yellow and orange leaves, shaken from the trees by gusts of wind that were colder than any breeze I had ever experienced. Before Florida, I had only lived in my homeland, Barbados, so Canada’s chilly temperatures were a first for me. I was fascinated by the sight of my breath suspended in the cool autumn air. I took every opportunity I could get to stand outside and puff little clouds out above my head.
One afternoon, my family decided on a trip to Ikea. My cousins promised me the Swedish meatballs would make it worth the trip. The sun was still creeping in between the blinds so I picked out a pair of capri pants and bounded down the stairs. I was promptly informed that with the temperatures dipping down to zero, my ankles were likely to freeze. But I was as stubborn at 11 as I am now and refused to change. When I stepped outdoors, my ankles were the last thing on my mind as I stood inside a real-life snow globe with flurries of snow floating down around me.
Of course, nothing lasts forever. That winter was one of the coldest I’ve experienced in my 15 years in Canada. Flurries turned to snow storms, capri pants turned to layers and Swedish meatballs were a distant memory as we settled into ordinary Canadian life. I regularly accompanied my pregnant mother to her numerous doctor’s appointments wearing three or four shirts, and pants that covered my ankles, though all those clothes seemed to do nothing to keep the -31 wind chill from cutting through to my bones. Trips to school were similarly frigid.
Two things I realised later in my life reassured me that, despite the unbelievably cold winters and the series of challenges my family faced, Canada was as wonderful as my childhood memories suggested. The first was that my mother, pregnant, with no private insurance, and still ineligible for OHIP, met a doctor who had made it his mission to help provide healthcare for the uninsured. Having heard the horror stories of people just south of the border being left with thousands of dollars in medical bills for one-day emergency room visits, that my mother was able to receive care both during and after her pregnancy at little-to-no-cost was nothing short of a miracle.
The second was that a little Bajan girl, not even a permanent resident of this country, could enter into school in the seventh grade and be given fair opportunity to flourish academically. Through every step of my schooling, I was met with teachers who saw my potential and heard my brilliance before they saw my skin or heard my accent. I was a valedictorian, an honour roll student, and an Ontario scholar, all before I was ever handed a permanent residency card. When I walked across the stage on the day I graduated from York University with my degree in professional writing, I remembered every classroom I sat in that got me to that moment, grateful that I lived in a country where my right to education was not limited by my immigration status.
Today, I am a writer, editor, and content creator who still believes in the magic of Canada. While I am only a permanent resident, I am fiercely defensive of Canada as my home. It is the place that put my mother and my baby sister’s health first. It is the nation that prioritised my education. It is a country that opens its doors to immigrants and refugees from across the world. We are a country whose military has been committed to peacekeeping efforts around the world, a fact that makes me proud to be an army wife.
No matter what box I might check for “immigration status,” Canada will always feel like home to me. I am Canadian, not because I say sorry a lot or have an obsession with Tim Horton’s coffee—both of which are true, by the way—but because when I leave, my heart pulls me back. I have become a part of the fabric of this nation and it has become a part of me.
As one of the millions of people who have chosen this country to be my home, I want Canada to live up to its magic. I want us to continue to be committed to protecting the rights of those within our borders and beyond them. I want to see Canada continue to work towards undoing the mistakes of the nation’s past and righting the wrongs committed against its First Nations peoples. I want to see Canadians continue to stand up against any form of discrimination and injustice that threatens to undermine the diversity and inclusivity we’ve come to think of as distinctly Canadian. What I want most is for the rest of the world to see Canada as I do—imperfect, as any country is, but wonderful all the same.
Talia Leacock is a twenty-something creative wordsmith. She spends most of her time ghostwriting for celebrity and CEO clients and helping Masters and undergraduate students produce their best work. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you’ll find her behind the pages of a good book, under a barbell in the gym, or engrossed in Shonda Rhimes’ latest masterpiece. The keys to her heart: seafood, literature, and kick-ass shoes.