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Former Refugee: "I just wanted a little guidance"

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Written from a child's perspective ... a voice of CGR


When I was in university, I met many international and foreign exchange students who had never lived through a Canadian winter before. My favourite sarcastic question to ask them in the fall was: "Are you excited for winter?" They all anticipated the cold and snow because Canada has a reputation for it, but even knowing the temperature ranges and hearing the horror stories from friends couldn't fully prepare them for the lived experience.


My mom arrived in Canada over 30 years ago as a refugee during the Vietnam War. In Vietnam she had heard about Canada's intense "negative degree weather," that it snowed through most of the year, and that having thick clothes and a roof over your head was a necessity for survival. In Calgary she struggled to find a job, and transportation was a complete nightmare. Her English was decent but limited, and all of her friends were fellow refugees experiencing the same exhaustive situations in daily life. When winter finally came, the day-by-day dropping temperatures mixed with culture shock and the sheer frustration of being helplessly alone left her feeling miserable.