Back when they were still in Algeria, my mother was a radio journalist and my father was an aeronautic engineer. They owned a three-bedroom condominium in the center of Algiers and a “fancy” European car, as they like to describe it. My parents were oblivious to the innumerable hardships that they soon would be facing in Canada.
Had they known, they would have stayed back home and endured the Civil War (1991 – 2002) that followed their country’s economic crisis (mid-1980s). But they had no idea, so they waited for their Visa request to be approved and flew to Montreal full of hope in the late 90s. They were not illegal immigrants. They became Canadian citizens in the early 2000s.
My parents only needed to get stable, well-paying jobs to give me the life that they had always dreamed of. However, they faced one of the most common problems related to immigration: their university degrees were not recognized here. They could have studied in Canadian universities and obtained the successful careers that they deserved if I wasn’t born so soon after. My parents decided instead to sacrifice their dreams of thriving here to take care of me – and, as we know, babies are quite expensive.
They are now a stay-at-home mother and a mechanic, who rent a two-bedroom apartment in a Montreal ghetto and can’t afford to own and maintain a new car – let alone a used one. They chose to give birth to me here. To teach me French and English, instead of Arabic (or even Algerian, their country’s dialect), and not to take me to Algeria during school breaks. I, therefore, have very little in common with most children of immigrants, but most people automatically assume the opposite.
Despite all the financial hardships that they have gone through, my mother was able to send me to a private high school with the money that she had saved her entire life.
“Some parents travel abroad every year, others pay for their children’s education”, she always said.
My first memory of this particular school is Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi cars dropping off students in front of the main entrance every morning, while I, obviously, took the bus. My last memory of it is was our extravagant graduation ceremony in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place-des-Arts, where other parents were dressed in expensive suits and dresses, while my mother wore a second-hand white shirt, old jeans, and bright blue Nike sneakers, which she actually borrowed from me. She had arranged her hair in a plain bun and, unlike the other mothers, wore no makeup. Unable to afford a camera, she borrowed her sister’s for the event.
My parents have struggledto provide me since they set foot in this country, which is very challenging in a society where our value is defined by what we own. However, I genuinely believe the world would be a much better place if people actually focused their lives on the fact that, as Bob Marley said, “the greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”.