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Immigration: A new life

Published Dec 22, 2012 08:10pm


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Photo by Emaan Rana/White Star

“Take the flight that lands after six in the evening.” Zain Sherwani spoke loudly and clearly in his cell phone, talking 11,000 km away to his father in Karachi, Pakistan. “That way, you and Ami will be out by eightish and I can come straight from work.” Zain was preparing for his parents’ arrival in Canada and as much as he had done, he still wasn’t sure if he was forgetting something. “Too bad Google doesn’t have a checklist for such events,” he thought. As Zain’s parents are in their mid 60s, he knew that uprooting them from their birthplace and distancing them from their childhood memories, and more importantly friends, was a very thorny business. But he is not alone. Zain’s parents are one of the 25,000 senior citizens immigrating to Canada in 2012, from all over the world. And as with any key change in life, especially in that age bracket, adjustment can be daunting. Just the fact that the ground is white with snow for half the year is enough to freeze most people in their tracks.

Last August, Farwah Adnan’s parents migrated from Islamabad. “Initially, they thought of it as a long vacation, travelling between Ottawa and Saskatoon, where my brother resides, but slowly the realisation settled in that they were here for good. As the days grew shorter in the winter months, I could see that a feeling of restlessness and gloom was moving in. That’s when I used the return airline ticket I had insisted Abba purchase. They went back to Islamabad for January and February. And once they returned, I noticed the difference. They knew their ‘home’ was within reach. Frankly, I don’t think they will ever consider this place home. But at least they are not unhappy here.”

Sajjad Qavi took a major step forward when his parents got their landing papers in May 2012. He shifted his home to make the transition easier for his parents. “Because I am single, it was fairly easy for me to do so. My new home is in the same building where my two other friends reside with their families. As one of them works from home, Abu is able to attend Friday prayers in congregation. Even though it’s a Somalian mosque, he has the community feeling and enjoys the sermon in English. With this strategic move to the new location, I was able to create a strong social network for my parents.”

Sibte Haider Zaidi migrated from Lahore to his son’s home in Montreal more than four years ago. “My daughter lives two hours away and we have few Pakistani families close by, with whom we meet every other week. The geographical shifting was easier for us and we were really lucky in this regard.” When asked if he missed his social life and the fabulous flavours of Lahori food, he jokingly replied, “Well, at this age, your doctor won’t allow you to eat what you consumed 10 years ago. And when inviting a new circle of friends for dinner, we cook with packaged spices.”

Another positive factor for Mr Zaidi is that his five grandchildren under the age of seven take up a major chunck of the day.

“Time literally flies when the children are around. I take so much pleasure in their company and am blessed to see them grow before my eyes.”

On the other side of the scale is Zakia Ali Jawad who is still trying to adjust in a new country. Her son, Ayaz, explains, “After Aba’s death, Ama was all alone and it was not easy for me to visit her every six months. Despite her very strong opposition, I filed for her sponsorship and she landed here in February 2011. I know she is unhappy, but at least, we are together and her medical needs can be attended to”. However, even after the passage of nearly two years, Mrs Jawad is still very bitter about the current scenario.

“I left my house, my friends, my memories and most importantly, my husband in Karachi. As my son and his wife work full time, I have absolutely nothing to do. And I am not good with directions, so I don’t venture out on my own.” The resentment and dislike could be seen clearly on her face. “Everything is different here. The weather, the people, the setup, the culture. How do you expect an elderly lady, in the last decade of her life, to settle here? Now my only prayer to God is that when the time comes, I be buried next to my husband,” she added angrily. The only activity on her hands is to teach Quran Sharif to two children living close by.

But then again, there are people like Syed Ammar, who was sponsored by his son Kamil in 2009. “Even before our landing papers arrived, we had created a list of activities that we could get involved in. My wife is very creative and had taken stitching lessons in Karachi. She has carried on her hobby here and is doing pretty well. My brother suggested I initiate a trading account in the stock market and now I am an active trader. The frequent buying and selling of stocks keeps my mind sharp and I have something to keep me busy. Not to mention the few extra dollars I make daily.” His few words of wisdom: “We should be grateful for all the pleasures in our life. I was able to give azaan in my granddaughter’s ear. True, I left my birthplace and a million memories behind, but look what I gained”.

Your immigration checklist

Before departure

  •   If you drive in Pakistan, try to get an international driving license before you leave. Then you can give both the driving tests, written and road test, within a month of each other.
  •  If possible, try to travel between May and September. This is dependent on the arrival of the landing papers, but there is a leeway of 90 days from the date of issue before you need to land in Canada.
The host in Canada
  • Purchase a return ticket from your parents’ hometown. The knowledge that they can leave if they wish will add to their level of security and comfort.
  • Try booking a flight that lands during daytime in the new city. Leaving the airport when it’s dark and gloomy outside will add to the fatigue and depression.
  • If they are arriving in winter, meet your parents with winter jackets and gloves at the airport.
  • Acquire a SIM and cellphone for the incoming guests. Print your own cell number and stick it to the refrigerator, so that they have means to contact you while you are in office.
  • Understand that even English-speaking parents may have difficulty in comprehending the accent and pronunciation of the locals; make allowances for communication problems.
  • PRC: A Permanent Resident Card is a wallet-sized plastic document issued to all permanent residents to confirm their status in Canada. This card is mailed to new residents at the postal address provided within 90 days of arrival. It is required on re-entering Canada, so until you receive the card, it is advisable not to exit Canada.
  • Health card: This is the key to Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Depending on the province, not every member of the family will be issued a health card. Newcomers need to visit the designated office to apply for the health card. OHIP coverage begins after three months of the resident landing in Canada. Until then, either you pay from your pocket or purchase international medical coverage before leaving Pakistan. Provide exact documents as required; photocopies or substitutes will only create an unnecessary delay.
  • Eye care: A comprehensive eye examination is covered by OHIP annually for persons under 20 and over 65 year of age. For ages 20 to 64, it includes annual eye examinations for those having pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Dental Services: The ministry pays for some dental surgery when it is done in a hospital. However, regular dental services, incurred at the dentist's office, must be paid by the patient.
  • Other health care: You may need to pay the full or partial cost of services provided by physiotherapists, podiatrists, etc.
Winter worry
  • No matter what you say, there is no avoidance of the extreme weather in Canada. The effects can be minimised, but not eliminated.
  • Layer your clothing. Leg warmers and a fitted vest will maintain the body heat and reduce heat from escaping. A regular winter jacket is less efficient than fitted inner clothing in conserving the body’s heat.
  • Boots, couple of inches higher than the ankle, with rubber soles and deep grooves are essential; not only will they prevent snow from entering your shoe, they will keep you from slipping on ice and snow.
  • Always check the weather report before venturing out and make sure you’re dressed appropriately; any skin uncovered in freezing temperatures can cause frostbite.


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Comments (29) Closed

arslan Dec 23, 2012 09:34am
Best of luck, with Gora culture.
Muhib Dec 23, 2012 05:48pm
grapes are sour....
AK Dec 24, 2012 03:40pm
Very informative article for people immigrating to Canada, BTW Canada has stopped parent sponsorship now and only gives whats called a 'super visa'. Life is not easy here and one must work hard to survive as taxes take a big chunk of your earnings, but at least you have peace of mind unlike back home. Good luck to everyone who comes here.
Bakhtawer Bilal Dec 23, 2012 05:18pm
Very nicely written. A good checklist. May I add one thing. Better get your eyesight checked and have your eyeglasses and lenses according to the new prescription. Keep a spare set of eye glasses with you. If you have any dental ailment, get the treatment before leaving. Dental and eye glasses cost can be daunting when converted to Pakistani Rupees.
Tahir Dec 24, 2012 09:32am
I am not sure if I agree to all of the above points in your list!
Pam Dec 23, 2012 01:51pm
Call it the Dawn guide book for immigration to canada
Salman Dec 23, 2012 04:50pm
..and that luck comes with no electricity , water, security, basic needs, and discrimination problems. Health coverage, and all sort of assistance is looked after for all in need...and you have full freedom to practice your religion. It's worth to be with Gora culture where gora or kala or brown or yellow, are all equal.
faisal Dec 23, 2012 04:48pm
Gora culture: 1. No killing in the name of this and that. 2. No load shedding. 3. No CNG shutdown. 4. No one judging you for your religious beliefs, ethnic/linguistic heritage. 5. No one trying to rip you off. Tell me where do I sign up?
manomoni Dec 23, 2012 02:43pm
If author informs how to get new immigration visa in canada, that will be more useful for thousands of pakisthanis who want to leave the country..
Amir Dec 24, 2012 03:03pm
It is in Pakistan that the generations are lost. No past, no present and definitely no future for those living in Pakistan...You may choose not to heed to the writing on the wall, but you all know it is true..
yamlajutt Dec 23, 2012 02:23pm
international driving license is not can do the same with a regular license
Shakoor Ahmed Dec 23, 2012 10:31pm
We came to Canada many years ago as our son was a teacher here in Western Canada. This is probably the coldest part of the country in the winter. After a season or two you become accustomed to the weather and actually start to enjoy it. The more you participate in the seasonal activities the more you get settled. We missed being in Pakistan at first but now if we visit Pakistan we always look forward to getting back to Canada so much so that going back to Pakistan is not a priority any more. I guess Canada is home now.
Zeeshan Dec 24, 2012 11:44am
This is a article from the in paper magazine , not a guide @ Star ....
Khan Dec 23, 2012 11:05pm
Its a lot better and extremely peaceful, then daily misery/humiliation our parents go through in sub-continent. where every body is trying to get up the ladder by pulling someones else leg. At least every one is treated as human.
star Dec 24, 2012 04:53am
very disheartening to see this kind of article providing checklist for people to emigrate in prominent national newspaper... anyway im not pakistani, just share some concern
Asim Irshad Dec 24, 2012 07:38am
Migrated to UK but cant come back because my son is not well. I cant come back and my parents getting old and they dont want to be in the country I live plus bringing parents is not offerred by this new country. The reason I migrated was a good system and better justice system. Please remember racism is in every country.
abid khwaja Dec 24, 2012 07:50am
I would say screwed up culture and one loose his or entire generation. So the most important thing to contemplate on before leaving Pakistan is whether it is worth it ?Since your move may cost you to loose your entire generation.
karim Dec 24, 2012 05:44pm
Yes its absolutely worth it. You might lose your life is you are in Pakistan and are a Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi, Christian, Hindu or human.
Sue Sturgess Dec 25, 2012 12:24pm
as with anything in life .. what suits one, might not suit another. Some people thrive after migrating, whilst others do not. It is all about the willingness to accept new situations
Zahid Dec 24, 2012 06:29pm
May i add few things more 21 century 6. No Electricity in pakistan 7. No clean water 8. police problem even GOVT is problem 9. Everywhere is corruption i have long long list witch never ending sorry to say that just feel a shamed ETC etc
Sue Sturgess Dec 25, 2012 12:37pm
there are also many other nations in the world
Ali Dec 24, 2012 06:57pm
Unfortunately, there is no comparison between Canada and Pakistan. Spend some time in Canada and see how totally messed up of a society our poor Pakistan is.
Rocky Dec 24, 2012 07:02pm
Immigration generally happens for better opportunities for oneself and the family. Culture and religiosity is in your heart. You don't have to wear these on your sleeves. Even a local mullah who denounces western societies all day long would like to send his kids there, so that he can follow there too.
Malik Dec 24, 2012 07:15pm
I moved to New Zealand 12 years ago. I like that country. My family and self benefitted immensely from that move. I am now working in UAE. Pakistan as a nation has a very long way to go. We are very ethnic/sectarian or biradari oriented primarily owing to lack of investment in education and also because a divided nation suits the ruling elite of Pakistan. I visit Pakistan often, as I still feel part of it. Pakistan's steady decline into anarchy is heart breaking. May Allah protect Pakistan.
Sue Sturgess Dec 25, 2012 12:38pm
you can always apply for a local licence when you get there
Salman Dec 25, 2012 12:33am
What I see that the downfall, corruption, killings, extremism, within this country is actually due to the parents of 80s and later on, who sent their children abroad for studies. That was a booming time of sending children out of the country for better education. This eventually, removed all the cream required to flourish the nation, hence causing a gap of all sort. No offense but in general, what we mostly see now are leftovers in politics, state jobs, and so on. All good minds are out with a feel of sorrow for their origins. Those children educated in different nations, flourished, and are now hesitant to return because they do not find any attraction nor security. Most importantly, the government does not take any step to bring those minds back like most other countries do. For example, India.
Eqbal Khan Dec 26, 2012 01:45am
What I don't understand is this: You left the country with your own will. You are well settled somewhere in the world. You got your parents with you. Happy or unhappy, your are out. Then why badmouth your country of birth? Your children wouldn't even know Pakistan, buck ends with you. Badmouthing is a negative thing. Help someone, by way of education, entrepreneurship or simply encouraging to be a good human. Again, You Are Out. Do Something That At Least Leaves Your Name In. As, to Pakistan, most of the opinions are shortsighted and stem from negative propaganda in the media. It does not mean that there is nothing wrong there, but it is exaggerated. I think what that nation has gone through and still stayed together in itself is a marvelous. It is going to come back. 180 Million People is a big country and there will be a turning point. That will happen sooner or later, but the Question is: Do You Want To Be In Or Out? I am sure most of us will say "IN." Even those who say out will follow.
bharat Dec 26, 2012 09:34am
Its very sad that Pakistanis are abandoning there home country. In the long run,they will realise what they will miss .Treated like a second class citizen in a first world nation. I am an Indian and did masters degree in France,i was there for one year and will never forget how the people treat us. Needless to say,i returned back home and am fine. What is so great about an extremely cold country like Canada that you wont find in Pakistan ?
Raj Dec 26, 2012 09:08pm
Oppurtunity !!!!!!