Call me overly sensitive, but some commonly-used phrases bother me. One in particular that I seem to be allergic to is the term "back home," when spoken by an immigrant who is now a citizen of Canada.
It sounds like this: "I don't know who to vote for in this election. Back home it was easier, because the newspapers were full of scandals and corruption. It was easy to get involved and get motivated to change politicians." Another example: "I'm a Canadian. I live and work here, but I go back home for vacations."
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm an immigrant myself, and I know how it feels to adjust to a new life in a new land. It's natural to compare Canada with the country of origin or to miss being immersed in that country's culture. What irritates me is the use of the phrase by people like me who have made a decision, after quite some time, to make this country their home and become Canadian citizens. I'm not referring to people living here on temporary work permits or on visitor's visas. And I'm not referring to new immigrants who are still trying to get their bearings in a new place. I mean Canadians recognized by the government as committed citizens.
Now I realize that many countries recognize dual citizenship. While citizenship implies certain rights, it also implies civic responsibilities like voting, for example. When one chooses to become a citizen of another country, one makes the effort to meet certain criteria for admission for citizenship. In countries like Canada, candidates also takes a citizenship test that requires a level of understanding about the traditions, history and way of life of this nation.
The point I'm making is that when I choose to become a citizen, I also choose a new home.
I apologize if I seem microscopic about this. I do understand that this phrase "back home" is also an easy, shorthand, conversational way of saying "where I came from. " I get that. But my mind gets stuck. When I hear "back home", I immediately think: if that's still "home " in this person's mind, maybe this person would rather be there, not here.
Whenever a former immigrant uses that phrase, he or she exposes himself or herself to criticism from native-born citizens who might question the new citizen's commitment to the country. At a time when Canada's population is rapidly changing, we need all the bonding we can find in order to build a better society. We can't run the risk of being misunderstood. It may be unintentional, but saying "back home" too loudly and too often can have negative consequences.
When I speak to someone, I don't want anyone to get the idea that I don't want to be here or that I don't belong.
I made Canada my home when I became a citizen. My country of origin (Italy) and its culture occupies a huge place in my soul, but I don't want to give anyone the impression I'm just "sampling" this country.
I'm not "passing through." I'm here to build.
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