It’s Canada Day and I have mixed feelings about the day this year. The world is reopening today, and most of the restrictions have been lifted. This includes wearing masks in most places. That makes me happy. I’ll still wear a mask if a business requires it – like when visiting dad – but it’s been almost eighteen months of isolation and I’m ready to get back to some sense of normalcy. The economy also needs to restart or reopen and some people just don’t get that.
It’s like people want to live in isolation forever. Which I get that as an introvert – but so many people have lost their businesses and homes this past year due to the struggling economy. Not everyone, like me, was qualified to receive the government subsidy. I know many friends who lost jobs, and nearly lost their homes too. I know many people who lost their loved ones and couldn’t even say goodbye to them in person. So yeah, excuse me when I say – I’m so ready to go back to “normal” life whatever that may be.
But this Canada Day – there’s a lot going around the country that makes me even a little scared to write this post. But you know what? It’s my blog. It’s my personal space. And I’m going to write about the topics I want to write about. I’ll block anyone who is rude, ignorant or just trolling for a response.
My parents moved to Canada in the 1950’s (good god, that sounds like a long time ago now), and they were proud to call Canada their home. My dad’s family left Denmark after the war because it became too painful for them. Why you ask?
My Danish Heritage
Because during the war, my grandfather fought against the German army and hid weapons on his farm. He also helped people escape out of the country. And — he also let people work on his farm or stay there when there was little work to be had. My grandfather, was a real war hero.
He was arrested when my dad was just four years old. The experience was enough to traumatize my dad and he remembers every minute of it. He remembers asking where “papa is” at Christmas time.
My grandmother, who was pregnant at the time, was almost arrested. But luckily, being pregnant, saved her life. She stayed at the farm and people came from the local village to help out. She managed the farm, the live stock and the children for TWO years while my grandfather was in the camp.
Imagine being ripped away from your family, starved, beaten and tortured for TWO years of your life. My grandfather didn’t even get to meet his daughter for two years. I just thought of that. That’s so fucking sad.
I’ve held off telling this story because it isn’t mine to tell. But it’s written down in Danish in several books. My grandmother also wrote a book about it.
My grandfather said it was too painful to stay in Denmark after that experience. And I don’t blame him. They sold the farm and the house, packed up their little belongings they had – and moved the entire family over via a long boat ride. They would dock in Halifax and enter their names in a ledger book which now is on display at one of the museums.
My father stayed behind another year to finish high school. I think he stayed with his grandfather and his family. I might have that wrong. But he was the only one in the family to earn a diploma. He would later go into business and become a successful business owner in Edmonton.
My grandmother chose Edmonton because of the Danish community. Many of the Danes that migrated during the 50’s, left Denmark for the same reasons. It was too painful for them to say and remember the devastation the war caused.
My British Side
My mother’s family is much smaller and the history is shorter – at least what I know of. My grandfather John had served as a cook for the British Navy on a ship. He would often speak proudly of his travels and adventures around the world. He wore his medals every November 11th and would attend the veteran’s ceremonies with my parents. I wish I had gone with them just once to ask all the questions I have now.
Nothing bad happened in England when my family lived there. All I know is that my grandfather became “frustrated” with his employer one day and decided to pack up the family and head to Canada. Even though they had a nice home, he had a good job – and they even were one of the first people to have a television in their neighbourhood.
My grandfather chose Calgary, Alberta, and later they would move to Edmonton where my mom met my dad. And the rest is ancient history since I’m in my 40’s and this all happened in the “1900’s” as kids call it now.
I’m a first generation Canadian. Meaning, that my siblings and I were all born in Canada. My parents and their families were immigrants from Europe.
Eventually, my mom’s British accent started to fade over the years. But she still used words like “bobby pins, spade, pram” and had to have her daily dose of Red Rose tea. My grandfather would come over often to have tea and watch Jeopardy. At least until the nieces and nephews were born because “there were too many kids and they were too noisy” for him.
He died at 95 years old out of sheer will in a nursing home in 2007. The same week my auntie Esther died on my dad’s side of the family.
I never got to meet my dad’s father. Nor did I get to meet my mum’s mother. I wish I had. Even though my grandfather didn’t speak of the war, I would have loved to have hear bout life in the early 1900’s. He even died the same year my mom’s mum died.
If you asked my mum what nationality she was – she would say with pride “Canadian.” And my dad would adopt this attitude too. They said it with pride because they had built an entirely different life here.
And so, I say this with immigrant parents.
It makes me sad when people say not to celebrate Canada Day. That because of the country’s dark past and government coverups like the Residential schools, Canada should be ashamed as a whole and we shouldn’t celebrate it.
I disagree with this. While I believe the discovery of the residential school children is an important one – the entire country is not at fault for this. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter. I met many residential school survivors through my job and I know how badly the schools treated them. And it breaks my heart.
But I am a proud Canadian. My family went through a lot to get here. They scarified their freedom. Literally.
We don’t have concentration camps here. This is something our children and grandchildren will never have to know. At least I hope not.
And so for one, I’m proud of my heritage. And I’m proud to be Canadian.
And even though I’m not attending any parties or celebrations today, I will sip a glass of wine later to celebrate my family and what they overcame to come here.
Here’s a little video I always listen to on Canada Day. Enjoy.