Immigrants living in Waterloo Region reflect on moving to Canada | Newcomers Canada

Immigrants living in Waterloo Region reflect on moving to Canada

Added  July 6, 2017

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press 
Published Tuesday, June 27, 2017 12:25PM EDT 


Mike Mehta, 67, left Uganda because he had to, but he says he chose Canada as the place to begin his new life.

"It scared the hell out of me the first time I saw that much snow here, but that didn't stop me," Mehta says from his home in Kitchener.

He had lived through more frightening things than snow.

On August 4, 1972, Idi Amin, who was then president of Uganda, ordered 80,000 people of Asian origin out of the country.

Others in his family headed to India, where his parents had been born, while some relatives went to England.

Mehta says he knew nothing about Canada except that its prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was accepting refugees and treating them well.

There were 6,000 Ugandan Asians brought to Canada -- the first time the country took part in a large-scale resettlement effort involving non-European refugees. Mehta, with $50 in his pocket, was one of them.

"I said, 'Where is the warmest place in Canada?"' Mehta says when asked how he ended up in Windsor, Ont.

He started off working a minimum-wage job at a jewellery store, but had to spend too much of his earnings on transportation.

He was keen to own a car and a house like the Canadians around him, so he answered an ad for a part-time job as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.

He began climbing his way up in that industry before eventually moving into the dry-cleaning business.

"It was challenging," says Mehta, before adding: "It was a lot of fun."

"I could see what the opportunities are there in the world, in Canada, if you are willing to work."


Seema Gupta says the decision to come to Canada was made almost on a whim.

She was from Mumbai. Her husband, Raj, was from Delhi. They were having a hard time deciding between the two, so when a friend applying to immigrate to Canada on a professional visa kept encouraging them join him, they did.

"Why not?" she recalls from her home in Waterloo.

She remembers how her husband attended a seminar aimed at attracting professionals to the foreign land, where the brochures emphasized multiculturalism, health care, gorgeous landscapes and yes, even the colder climate as the big draws.

"What they didn't highlight in those seminars was how difficult it is for people to get a job," Gupta says.

She and their baby daughter stayed behind while Raj, an engineer in technology sales, gained Canadian experience working at a big box electronics store and a call centre before finally landing a job in his field after nearly a year.

Gupta remembers how isolated she felt as a young mother living in their basement apartment in a quiet, residential neighbourhood in the Scarborough area of Toronto nearly two decades ago, missing the noise and closeness that had come with being surrounded by a large extended family back home.

She says she loves Canada now, but regrets they were never able to visit family in India as often as they wanted to.

She feels the distance more acutely as her parents get older and she cannot be there when needed.

And while she thinks the wintertime is beautiful to look at through the window, she has never got used to the cold.

"I used to enjoy ice cream. I don't anymore," she says with a chuckle.

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