An Interview

immigrant interview

Yours truly was approached by Ryerson University’s Brooke Wilkinson for an interview last December. Below I reproduce a script for my readers and public benefit, as it has not been publicly shared. All credit where its due while mistakes & omissions are mine.

By Brooke Wilkinson

Why did you want to leave your home country?

For a better life in a freer country.

Why did you decide to move to Toronto?

Because a family member lived here.

What family members or friends did you leave behind?

My parents, siblings and my friends.

How do you stay in touch?

I stay in touch via phone and email.

What was the single biggest struggle once you first arrived?

Finding employment.

What is the worst thing that has happened to you since then?

Not having been able to find employment within my professional field and settling for a job way below qualification/experience/education. Having to quit that job because of embarrassingly exploitative conditions and subsequently spending a year of depression and anxiety while trying to find another, and upon getting one, having to lose it because the company went bankrupt.

What was the best thing?

The luxury of drinking fresh water straight out of the tap.

Did you experience any culture shock when you first arrived?

Not really. I have worked and lived in different countries before coming to Canada, with members of all the world’s major cultures. The culture shock to me now will be going back to my country of birth.

Were there any language barriers?

No. I’m fluent in English and having worked in different countries, retain very little trace of an accent. My British-English pronunciation of words, however, sometimes sticks out like a sore thumb. I have now started to learn French as well.

Who has helped you the most since you arrived in Canada?

My brother who immigrated before me and who has been a citizen for a few years now. I stayed with him and his family when I arrived, until I found my first job and rented my own apartment.

Is there someone that you really look to for help and support?


Did you come to Canada with a wife, girlfriend, partner or children?

No. I am single.

Have you been trying to find someone in Canada? Do you plan on marrying here?

Yes, it’s in my plans.

How did you go about finding employment when you first arrived?

I wrote to all employers of my actual profession in Toronto, sending my resumes and asking for just a foot in the door without any big salary expectations or title, but never heard from any. Frustration grew after a while, so then I just started applying for anything in any profession, underselling and diluting my qualifications to a laughable point, and got a ridiculously exploitative job.

Did anyone help you?


What more do you think could be done to help new immigrants find employment?

Something more than the superficial and self-serving government-funded cushy programs that seem content only on handing out glossy recycled “information” literature that actually serves the purpose of showcasing what they are doing in order to get continued funding and grants. I think the only employment help they are capable of providing is making sure they stay employed themselves.

You mentioned in your entry Newcomer Employment Tips that companies and industries in Canada fail to recognize international credentials for engineers and doctors. What more do you think our government can do to allow professionals to work in their fields once they arrive in Canada?

I know it sounds daring or even crazy, but something like this should at least be tried, even on a small scale:

Skilled-worker class Immigrants must be given at most one guaranteed chance to prove themselves in their relevant skill fields — say, an appraisal based test-employment program — even if the cost is borne by the government or businesses.

Of course, there will be problems and resentment in the beginning, but this will ensure immigrants get into professions with whose credentials they applied for immigration. And those are the professions that are supposed to have need for workers, for government to approve their immigration applications in the first place.

If the immigrants fail on the job while under this guaranteed test-employment program, let them fail themselves and realize that they should do something else. At least the government will have done its duty to put them into areas for which they were granted immigration, in all fairness.

When you could not find decent employment in Canada in early 2008, how did that make you feel?

It was early 2007. I could not find anything for an entire year. What it made me feel, is something I don’t like to revisit, even for the sake of making a point.

You also mentioned that you considered returning home. What made you decide to stay?

A last ditch attempt resulted in a somewhat acceptable job that was still very remote from my actual profession and for which I was way overqualified and had to undersell myself. But at least I could afford an apartment to live in. That job, as I write, is lost, because the company went bankrupt this week. I am too dumbfounded to comment on that development right now.

In the entry, Time to think of leaving may be approaching, you said that you do not have any connections or networks or friends. How important do you think a support system is for a new immigrant?

It’s as important to an immigrant as it is to any ‘regular’ Canadian or a human being for that matter. However, having said that, I think that a majority of ‘older newcomers’ tend to be so unsuccessful and detached from the mainstream Canadian life that at times I wonder if it is actually better that a ‘new newcomer’ does not have any connections or networking with the ‘old boys network’ at all.

Have you experienced overt racism since you arrived in Canada, either in the workplace or otherwise?

Not in the workplace, yet. But I have experienced it out on the street, as I’ve written on the blog. There is a lot of overt racism in the comments sections of all major and minor Canadian newspapers online. Internet’s anonymity brings people out of their closets.

What do you think we all can do to prevent racism towards new immigrants in the future?

Racism is not aimed just at new immigrants. Racism is aimed at anyone appearing different than the majority at any given place. It will decrease as society becomes more integrated and offers more equal opportunity. But racism is often a direct result of bigotry. For immigrants from some parts of the world, bigotry can be reduced if Canada’s policy towards the world changes. When a 4th generation western European-ancestry Canadian soldier is killed in a war that is perceived as “them” versus “us”, bigots will not like “them” living in this society and will never accept them as “us”. Canada’s interventionist foreign policy should be questioned by an increasingly multi-racial nation.

Do you feel that immigrants from certain countries are given unfair advantage over other countries?

I don’t think so. If it appears that way, it could be because of the sheer numbers of people applying to immigrate from certain poorer countries. A developed country will have fewer people immigrating. As a result, anyone applying from those developed countries will have a much more rapid and easier experience than immigrants from a country where there’s a huge backlog of applications. This should create frustration and accusations of unfair advantage. I think given its enormity, the Canadian immigration process is quite fair.

Despite that you weren’t able to vote, did you feel that one party should have won in the recent Canadian election?

No, I see both main parties as equally glum, insipid and uninspiring. Besides, hardly anything was achieved with such an expensive exercise after which everything remained quite the same.

Your list of Successful, Famous Immigrants, includes a list of successful immigrant men in Canada. Are any of these men your role models?

No! In fact, the list was done to show how little accomplishment is there from immigrants.

I also noticed that in this list there are no women. Why do you think that is?

I’m sure there are many women qualified to be on the list. It’s just that I haven’t come across any particular name or looked hard enough.

Do you think it is more difficult for women than men to immigrate to Canada?

I don’t think so. In fact, I personally think women have a better chance of integrating and becoming more successful immigrants than men.

In your blog entry Wanted: A family doctor accepting new patients! you said it is impossible to find a family doctor. In another blog entry, you note that it is difficult for international doctors to find work in Canada because their credentials aren’t recognized. Do you think allowing more internationally trained doctors to work in Canada would solve this problem?

Yes. But I think the problem is fundamentally caused by an alarmingly increasing aging population of ‘old Canadians’ who will continue to take the largest chunk out of Canada’s health care. I wouldn’t be surprised if all health care in future is entirely dedicated to them and the rest of us end up using home remedies!

Do you experience any financial struggles on a day-to-day basis?

Not as long as I have steady income. When I don’t, I struggle.

What are these struggles?

Biggest worry is paying out the rent and being able to keep the apartment.

Should others be doing more to help immigrants struggling financially?

No. It’s the very prevailing welfare handout culture in Canada that makes everyone feeling entitled for something that they should be earning with hard work — given fair opportunity. It makes us all uncompetitive and just plain lazy.

If you do not have any financial struggles, what has kept you financially stable?

What little life-time savings that I brought from back home, which have now dwindled and made me sad to have spent it all for apparently nothing. In fact, at times I feel that starting from the immigration application process, I have given more money and effort to Canada than Canada has returned in kind.

Do you think you are better off living in the Greater Toronto Area than in another part of Canada?

Yes. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because of its ethnic/cultural diversity and also it being the financial, cultural and commercial centre of Canada.

What are your hopes for the future?

To continue with my Pursuit of Happiness — to quote, ironically, the United States Declaration of Independence.

Will you become a Canadian citizen?



Because it’s the country I chose to live in and call my home — not new or old — but one and only home.

First Published: July 23rd, 2009


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