“Our First 7 Years in Canada” An Interview with Hong Nguyen

Our family came to Jane and Finch in 1993. There were four of us, my husband and I, and our daughter and son. My husband and daughter arrived as refugees in 1989.  My husband worked at Panasonic and he sponsored me and our son in 1991.  After two months of searching for a job, I started work at W. M. Shoe Manufacturing Ltd. in Etobicoke. In Vietnam, my background was in accounting so I had never before worked in a factory.  After the shoe factory closed down in 1993, I was out of work.  My husband was laid off too, so we applied to live in government housing.  We moved from Etobicoke to an apartment on Dune Grassway in Downsview in 1993,. I remember that our son borrowed books from a bookmobile that parked on Firgrove every Wednesday.

Both my husband and I found work here and there, but there was a language barrier. I wanted to take a Computerized Accounting Program offered by MicroSkills, but I had to improve my English. I took LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) classes, where I learned about Toronto and the pioneers who lived over one hundred years ago.  Our teachers took us to Black Creek Pioneer Village, I think that any newcomer should visit it!  During that time I was also pregnant with my third child (a son). I took the TTC from Downsview to Davenport every day up until my baby was due.  My teachers were worried when the weather was bad.

When I was ready to apply to the Accounting Program, I was also about to give birth. My case worker told me I had a hard choice to make. I could stay at home and take care of three kids, or start the program one month after giving birth. Because this was my best chance to go back to school, after my son was born, I started the Accounting Program in May 1994. The next years were tough. My husband and daughter took turns babysitting when I was at school. After finishing in 1995, I volunteered at North York Community House, helping newcomers and translating flyers about local events.

Finally, in 1995 I got a job in data entry at Watts Distribution Ltd., and I stayed there for more than 11 years. I learned new things on the job, and was promoted to Database Administrator. Working at Watts improved my English. I learned from the customer service reps, and later from talking with customers. My husband learned CNC technology and worked at Eagletronic.  In 1998, seven years  after our family arrived in Canada, we bought a house near Driftwood and have lived there ever since.

Our neighbourhood has changed a lot over time. My husband and I used to travel downtown to buy rice and Asian food. Today, there are supermarkets in the area like Kien Hung Supermarket, and great Vietnamese restaurants. You can  go to church in Vietnamese at St. Jane Frances Church. My neighbours come from Africa, Europe, and Asia, and we always greet each other with a smile. My son still enjoys playing Ping-Pong at the Driftwood Community Centre. 

When I look back on our first years in Canada, I feel grateful that there were programs to support my family. My children have had many opportunities: our daughter is an MBA and our son became an Engineer.  Thank you Canada!  Actually, we are selling our house this year. I am moving with my children to Vaughan after more than 20 years in this house. If it were only up to me, I would stay in Downsview

*This interview was conducted in Vietnamese and translated in to English by Michael Vu. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Editorial ✘Downsview Votes

According to the most recent polls, the Wynne Liberals have lost the confidence of most Ontarians. Instinctively, Ontarians looked to the Progressive Conservatives to end the 15-year-long reign of Liberals at Queen’s Park. However, the abrupt resignation of Patrick Brown and the controversies surrounding his leadership, and the poorly organized PC leadership race that ensued, made Progressive Conservatives look less and less like a viable option for most Ontarians. This sentiment was further reinforced by Doug Ford’s Greenbelt remarks and the Highway 407 data breach controversy which saw the resignation of the PC candidate for Brampton East. Also, Ford’s failure to present Ontario voters with a comprehensive platform makes Ontarians question the aptness of Progressive Conservatives to take charge of the province.

The only other option left for Ontarians is Andrea Horwath, the leader of Ontario’s New Democrats, who is seen as the most trustworthy contender in this fierce election season. In contrast to Ford’s PCs, the NDP has presented a fully costed platform that seeks to address some of the greatest challenges faced by Ontarians and aims to make life more affordable for people in the province.

This year, the election race in Humber River–Black Creek has proven to be an exciting one with three new and diverse candidates. The candidate that The Downsview Advocate is proud to endorse is Tom Rakocevic. Tom’s rich knowledge of the community and his years of experience advocating for local issues make him a strong voice for Humber River–Black Creek.

June is now officially Filipino Heritage Month in Toronto

Scarborough – Councillor Neethan Shan hosted a reception to celebrate the City of Toronto’s declaration of Filipino Heritage Month, starting in June of 2018, and to congratulate Filipino Canadians who helped make it possible. 

“I congratulate all those individuals and organizations within the Filipino Canadian community in Toronto that have been working for a long time for this to happen,” said Councillor Shan.

The motion to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month, brought forward by Councillor Shan, the City’s newly appointed Newcomer Advocate, passed at November’s City Council meeting, and marks the first time Filipino Heritage Month is recognized by any level of government in Canada. 

As part of his motion, Councillor Shan called on Toronto City Council to formally ask the Ontario and Federal governments to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month. Councillor Shan has since written to both levels of government to make the same declaration.

“Declaring June as Filipino Heritage Month will give Filipino Canadians, Torontonians, Ontarians and Canadians an opportunity to learn, celebrate, enjoy and experience the rich heritage and histories of the Filipino Canadian community,” said Shan. 

“It will also provide our City with an opportunity to reflect on the many outstanding contributions Filipino Canadians have made in Canada, and in the world.”

The packed reception featured speeches from leaders such as Paulina Corpuz of the Philippine Independence Day Council, TCDSB Trustee Garry Tanuan, and the Philippine Consul General of Toronto. These community leaders shared what Filipino Heritage Month would mean for generations of Filipino Canadians to come. 

Elected officials also attended the celebration, including Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, MPP Raymond Cho and City Councilor Chin Lee.  The Ontario NDP introduced a bill in the legislature in November calling on the Ontario Government to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month.  MPP Cho called for unanimous consent in the legislature for the declaration. 

The evening featured a series of breathtaking performances by Folklorico Filipino Canada, a dance group committed to enhancing Filipino Canadian identity by preserving traditional forms of dance. 

The reception concluded with Councillor Shan presenting certificates of appreciation to Filipino Canadian community organizations that supported the Toronto declaration of Filipino Heritage Month by sending in letters of support to Toronto City Council before and during the presentation of the motion at City Hall.

The reception was held at the Scarborough Civic Centre on Thursday, November 30.

– Office of Councillor Shan staff