I Am Canadian: Nita Bawa

(courtesy Passages to Canada, Historica-Dominion Institute)

Hello, my name is Nita Bawa. I came to Canada in 1996 with my two children and my husband. My husband is an accountant, so we came under the professional category. We immigrated into Canada from the Middle East, but originally I am from India. I was born there. I was born in a city called Calcutta, and my father moved to different places in India, so we traveled a lot. I speak Hindi and Punjabi, and I also speak Urdu (and, of course, English).

I got married when I was nineteen years old, and very soon after had my children, so I became a mother very early in my life. My husband was posted to Iraq in Baghdad in the Middle East. It was one of the finest years of my life that we spent in Iraq. Very nice people, lovely, beautiful country. But of course, it is a very different story today.

After Iraq, we moved to Dubai, and we stayed there. Why we decided to move to Canada was for our children’s education and future, and more opportunity. Of course, we had seen beautiful postcards of the snow, and beautiful locations in Canada, and that enticed us into coming and living in the country.

Adjusting to Canada was not very easy. It was actually quite tough, because first we had to lower our standard of living because everything was very expensive here. Back in the Middle East there was a lot of money, and you make tax-free money there, but here it was different. Going shopping and paying all that money on taxes – that was the first thing that pinched us.

When we started to go out and look for jobs, the first thing people would ask us was, “You don’t have Canadian education or experience?” And that was the toughest. But I guess a little luck plays its part and, because I had worked in an international organization, I eventually got a job there. So I was the first one to get a job. My husband found it much more difficult because he came from a senior position and he wouldn’t get that here. But he wouldn’t give up, and he said, “If that’s what they want… if that’s what Canada wants, I will educate myself.” And he got down to studying, and he studied for three years. He did his… he’s a chartered accountant from India. He did his CPA in the United States, and eventually he qualified as a certified general accountant. That day when he graduated was absolutely a day of celebration for us, because it was three years of hard work.

And since then, we have never looked back. My husband has a good job. I have a good job. I have had some experiences in my life here in Canada, but that hasn’t stopped me. I am now working with the social services here, and what Canada means to me is a country where one is free. I am free to believe in whatever I want. I speak openly about my beliefs. Whatever profession I want to do, I have those opportunities, and that is why Canada means a lot to me. We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, otherwise we harden. That was said by Goethe and I believe in that.

Nita Bawa is a speaker for the Historica-Dominion Institute’s Passages to Canada.

Learn more: Passages to Canada