Newcomer Stories



Portrait of Namoona Pokhrel in a bright orange sari

"A very beautiful place, has many natural things to enjoy, and is next to a very nice lake!" These are the words that my friends said when I told them I was moving to Thunder Bay.  However, I was worried.  I was mostly worried about the cold weather, and the people, if they were nice or mean, helpful or not.  My husband was worried about his job and his colleagues.  My sons were worried about the school and friends.  On the other hand, we were excited because my husband had a job in a naturally beautiful place. 

Driving along Lake Superior was traitorous. When we arrived in Thunder Bay, the people were nice. We met nice Nepalese families, nice neighbours, and found a nice home. It took us time to settle to the different weather, different place, and different environment. However, it didn’t take us as long as we thought it would since we had help from the Nepalese community and Thunder Bay Multicultural Association (TBMA). They gave us all the info about Thunder Bay. Not only that, they also helped us with our banking, taxing, housing, and school system. The people in TBMA are not only helpful, but are also very friendly and joyful. TBMA is very instrumental in helping new comers to settle in. That’s not all; they also warned us about the hard and cold winter. 

As time passed by, we got more used to the place and the people. I found the people simple, friendly, and cooperative. My husband found his workplace very good. My kids found a good school and friends. We feel like we are in our second home.


Family portrait of four - mother, father and two young kids

 We have been living in Canada, in the small city of Thunder Bay since April 2007, almost 3 years.

 We are a Venezuelan family and we want to share our experiences from the moment we start thinking to come to this incredible country.

First, what mainly motivated our immigration to Canada was to offer to our children the best standard of education and real safe place to live.

In Venezuela, the immigration to Canada is a very complex legal process and stressful situation for the family. It begins like a dream where many different and contrasting feelings come to your mind. Leaving your country, your culture, your family and friends is part of this meaningful situation but the opposite the challenge to come, find a job, new friends, a house, learn a new language and improve your standard of living, makes more enjoyable this moment.

 We can divide the immigration process in 4 big phases: legal documentation and interview preparation, travel preparation and household moving, final settlement in Canada and enjoying new friends and experiences. 

Phase 1 has many legal requirements, meeting with lawyers and preparations for the interview in the Canadian Embassy.  All is based on points and you must get the minimum of 67 points to be accepted as a new Canadian resident.  The score is based on your education level, how many official languages you speak (English, French), whether you have enough money to keep your family for at least 6 months, your working experience, if skill and experience is required in Canada at the moment of your application and how well you face the interview all are part of immigration evaluation.  When finally you overcome this stage and get your Canadian Visa (1st entry) the pressure does not stops there.  After you receive your Visa, you have 1 year to move to Canada.  Then is time for the international move – Phase 2.  Sell your house, cars and belongings are main activities in this stage. 

The 3rd phase is the period from the time you arrive until you get all official Canadian documentation in place.  I consider this is the most emotional where finally after approximately 2 years of planning all suddenly becomes reality.  Arriving in a new country is full of positive expectation and hope.  Every day in this stage, you face many small challenges.  Get a new Social insurance number, permanent resident card, OHIP card (Ontario health), driving license, find the right school, and rent a house.

In this period, we counted on friends in the area who guided us in the adaptation process.  However, do not worry if you do not have friends in the area.  In all Canada’s cities, you can approach to the multicultural center.  These are government –funded organizations responsible for assisting all new immigrants in the process of setting in Canada.  Additionally, believe us, in Thunder Bay, we received help from Thunder Bay Multicultural Association and this organization is amazing, they will assign a person or family to help you in the adaptation process.  They also offer free English classes, help finding a new job, psychological support, translations, and assistance with medical visits.  Moreover, please do not feel afraid to contact the Multicultural Association, its main role is to ensure the successful adaptation of newcomers to Canada.  It is practically a win-to-win relationship.

Now let’s talk about the last phase, where we are now.  We have created a multicultural family group with several nationalities in which we have in common our desire to make Canada our new home.  Living in Canada for us was like a dream that became a reality and this dream only was possible through our huge effort, dedication, and family unity.  Immigrating to another country is a big and difficult decision.  Always stay together as a family, and share all concerns and expectations.  Everything looks more difficult from the base of the mountain, but once you arrive on the peak you feel like a hero after overcoming this challenge.



Portrait of Mital DesaiMy husband and I moved to Canada in January 2006. I knew from my friends and relatives that North America is the land of opportunities. I was very excited for a new start and change as I was pregnant with my son. I was most excited about the snow. At first I was scared to walk in snow fearing my feet might get frost bite and then they have to be amputated.

I have studied Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical Eng.) and Master of Business Administration (Finance) in India (my home country). Currently I am working with Cook Engineering, Thunder Bay ON. If I get a chance to start my time in Canada all over again then I would apply for my Professional Engineer license right away and write the G1 test for driving. 

My husband got an admission in Mechanical Engineering at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay ON. When we moved to Thunder Bay in September 2006, it was so cold for me that I would not go out any where except to buy the groceries once a week. After first winter we learned that we should have dressed in layers and always put on sleepers to keep the feet covered and warm. I liked Thunder Bay very much as I have always lived in a small town. The only thing I miss is the swing in the verandah at my parent’s house in India.

The hardest thing for me was to put my son in day care when he was 2 years old. I was feeling guilty and very worried for sending him to day care so that I can go to work, but after a month he liked playing with other kids in the day care so much that now he gets bored at home on weekend. 

The strangest thing for me in Canada is that having a good time is the most important thing for people here. Parents would leave their 2 months old baby with the baby sitter or family member and go to fishing trip for whole day or to the camp. This is the main difference I have noticed about way of thinking. Until my son was 31/2 years old, I and my husband would never go out together to attend any party or get together whatsoever. If it is for adults only function or program then one of us will stay home with my son rather than keeping him in day care for longer period of time or with friends. 

I can keep going on about all the things I have learned and tried but to make the long story short I have never regretted the decision of moving to Canada. I like living in Thunder Bay despite of the cold weather.



Thunder Bay is a small but beautiful and vigorous city. I love the free of outdoor concerts and recitals, very joyful! In additional, I’ve attended some useful workshops [hosted by the Thunder Bay Multicultural Assocation] like financial investment and saving money. I feel TBMA is excellent liaison between local culture and foreigners. 



Respect is the key to success out in the real world. Being an immigrant or refugee is not easy. Moving from one place to another is not easy. The struggle that you have to go through is one of the hardest things that you might encounter in your life. The Canadian lifestyle is very different to the one you may be used to. Back where my parents are from in Guatemala there are street markets and it is always warm outside. Here it’s cold and warm and there are no street markets but there are grocery stores. You have to wear a hat, mitts, jacket and boots when it is cold outside and there is snow on the ground. Adapting to the weather, not knowing where to go, not knowing anyone, not knowing if you made the right choice. There are many things that run in someone’s mind when they leave their country to move to a different one.

One thing that hurt me the most growing up was being discriminated against by others because I was either Hispanic or just because I was an Immigrant. As a kid that brought me down, but I found ways to work around it. What I did was ignore them and I set myself one goal—no matter what they said of me, I was always going to work hard, I was going to give it all I had, and I was never going to give up. That has made me into who I am today. When you move you start all over again; you get the opportunity to become someone better. Moving to Canada was the right choice for my parents to make. Living here I have been very lucky: I have travelled the world for free, we have a pretty good education system, I’ve met amazing people, and I have a beautiful family and home where it all starts. These things and other opportunities happened for one reason, that reason being respect. As an immigrant I’ve learnt that respect is the most powerful virtue one can have. The way I get treated for being an immigrant or because of my race has made me open my eyes and become a better person. It has shown me that for me to succeed I have to simply work hard, show respect, and most importantly just be myself. Don’t listen to the negative comments people may say; it’s hard but prove to yourself that you’re better than that. Living here also has made me realize how lucky we truly are. Here I have been involved in different activities such as cadets, dancing, swimming, school sports, karate, to name a few. There are opportunities here that you might not have had where you came from. Take advantage of those opportunities—join social clubs, sign up for sports teams, take dance classes or swimming classes, snowboarding, tubing, skiing, go for a jog, a walk, or a bike ride. You only get to be a kid once, live and be happy with what you have, because even though it is tough at times, there is a reason why you moved here. I know it is scary to start all over again because I also went through it, but we have to be strong and prove to ourselves that we can succeed; nothing is impossible.



Looking back now.
I see what they saw
A girl who looked different and didn’t belong,
Arriving and deciding that this was her place
With a smile so cocky placed upon her face.
Maybe that’s what those people saw.
Another immigrant, so un-Canadian, so flawed.
But they didn’t know, and they couldn’t see.
I wasn’t some outsider,
I was me.
Looking back now
I see what I saw
A new community, of which I wanted to belong.
But, some people wouldn’t accept me.
They wanted something else,
What was wrong with me, I sometimes asked myself.
Maybe that was why, I saw what I saw,
When I looked in the mirror, and why I felt so small
But I didn’t know, and I couldn’t see
That I was special
Because I was me.
But when I met the right people, when I went to the right places
I found people who greeted me with smiles on their faces.
True Canadians that didn’t judge, true Canadians who were kind,
True Canadians who had more than colour on their minds.
True Canadians who knew right from wrong,
True Canadians that knew everyone belongs.
That colour doesn’t matter, and that racism makes no sense.
These Canadians were the people who gave me self-confidence.
And it’s because of them, I can look back now
And see what both I and those who judged me
Should have seen somehow.
That singling out people is just plain wrong.
That we’re all different, that we all belong.
And that maybe one day, if everyone could see
The same way those true Canadians saw me.
Canada would be better, and soon the world would be too.
Because I am me and you are you.



Hi, I am Samuel and I am 15 years old. We came to Canada on May 1st, 2008. Canada is a new country for us. At the beginning we had no friends. Friends are really important.

Poem for Friends
You may not have ever seen me.
But you know that I am here.
You can feel me in your heart
As you enter each new day.
I will always be there for you
I am your friend
Someone to share the good times as well as the bad.

In Canada it is very cold. I don’t really like cold, but it’s better than hot. In India the summer is too hot and long. I am sure that Canada is better than India. When we were in India we were poor. We lived in only one room, which is smaller than our kitchen in Canada. For drinking water we needed to get it from far from our home. I always pray to God that somebody would sponsor us, and we can go to another country to live a better life. In India we couldn’t go to school; this was the biggest problem because we did not have enough money to pay for fees. That’s why I always pray to God that we can go to another country to go to school and live a happy life.

Luckily somebody did sponsor us. When we heard the news we were too happy. Then we came here to Canada. It was a weird country. Our families and sponsors were waiting for us in the airport. When we met them we were happy, shook hands and went to our home. We ate dinner and went to bed. The time came to go to school. We were nervous, but we had to go to school, that’s why we came here. It was hard to go to school because first we could not speak English, second we didn’t have any friends and third we couldn’t understand what the teachers were explaining. Later we kind of understood.

We miss India because we have many friends and family there. One thing, before we came to Canada we didn’t know that we would have family in Canada, but as I say, they were waiting for us in the airport. We were happy to see our family again.

Poem for Families
Families are a precious thing
Through the year of laughter,
love and tears
If you have a family
You are a lucky person
Without family what are we
If we don’t have mom, dad or
bro, and sis
How will you feel?



"You are so lucky". This is what I constantly heard from my Chinese friends when I went back to China last summer to visit them. It is true that I am lucky: to be able to come to Canada, such a beautiful country, and to have the experience of living in a different culture and language, but the experience wasn’t always that sweet. I can still recall some bitter feelings from the tough time during my first immigration year. Of course, the biggest problem I faced was the language barrier.

June 4, 2005 was the date I first came to Canada. A funny (but serious back then) incident occurred at the Toronto Airport, when my mom and I walked out of the plane that was supposed to fly us to Thunder Bay, and found us back where we departed. "Are they speaking English?" my mom asked me. The language they spoke sounded weird and choppy back then, and it wasn’t like the English we used to hear in schools in China. The announcements and the flight attendants spoke so fast that we couldn't catch any word other than "the". Just when we were frustrated and desperate, a gentle voice spoke slowly and clearly to us. “We cannot land at Thunder Bay because of heavy fog.” It was from a warm-hearted lady who took the same plane. She spoke it again and again with exaggerated hand gestures until we finally got a sense of what she was talking about. More and more problems emerged. We couldn’t make a phone call to the people waiting for us at the Thunder Bay airport. Because of that we got lost with other people on our flight, and we had no idea where to go next or where to find our baggage. The nice lady appeared again - she had noticed that we got lost from the group. She smiled and talked to us in a calm voice and listened to our terrible English with patience, until she got us on a plane later in the evening, while she stayed at the airport with other passengers overnight.

The story doesn’t end here. Two years later, in the Spanish classroom of PACI high school, I saw that familiar smiling face that once brought me courage again. The world is small after all - she was my Spanish teacher! Again she used her bright smile and warm voice to help me overcome language obstacles and even use my second language for the study of the third language. When I couldn’t understand other teachers’ fast-paced lecture, she advised them to speak slowly and clearly, and to print instead of write on the blackboard. She also encouraged me to participate in a wide variety of extracurricular activities and take part in school clubs of my interest. Slowly but gradually, I found my English improving, my social circle widened, my experience enhanced with participation in a wide array of activities, and the number on my report card grew.

Two more years have passed. Now as an exceptional IB student, a leader and participant of over ten clubs and associations, a candidate for various scholarships and awards, a good friend of all my classmates, a good daughter (according to my mom), and a positive individual that brings a smile to everyone’s face, I am proud of myself, and I am thankful. Thankful to my Spanish teacher, my mom, my friends, and everyone who has helped me to become who I am today, and who I will be tomorrow.