This is the second in a six-part series by Global News intern Fadzaiishe Ziramba that tells the personal stories of new Canadians and their journeys to Canada. In this story, Ziramba tells us what it took for Esther Adeagbo to Canada from Nigeria, and talks about why it’s important for Canada to receive more immigrants like her. Links to all six parts of the series are available at the bottom of this story.
Some immigrant stories involve pit stops in other first-world countries that did not make the cut in the search for a new home.
Esther Adeagbo lived in London, U.K., for four and a half years before her family settled in Alberta.
Adeagbo, 22, was born in Lagos, Nigeria. She is the first-born child in a family of five and has fond memories of her childhood in Nigeria. Adeagbo spent her days in school and church.
“I had a typical childhood, just filled with playing and walking to and from school,” Adeagbo said.
Yet, it’s also important that she found her way to Canada. The government is hoping young immigrants, such as Adeagbo, can help deal with an aging population and low fertility rates.
Some Canadians are reluctant to accept this. In a Leger poll released in June, 63 per cent of respondents said Canada should limit immigration levels because the country might be reaching a limit in its ability to integrate them. Just 37 per cent said the priority should be on growing immigration to meet the demands of Canada’s expanding economy.
Young immigrants are needed to deal with a demographic situation. A government document suggests that “immigration to Canada is a tool that can help to lessen the decline of Canada’s worker-to-retiree ratio.” In 2012, the ratio for workers-to-retirees was 4.2 to one. This figure will drop to a ratio of two to one by 2036.
Canada would eventually offer a world of opportunity for Adeagbo, though she didn’t know it as a child.
WATCH: (Oct. 20, 2016) Canada needs thousands more skilled immigrants to boost economy: advisers
Back in Nigeria, she remembers enjoying the intimacy she experienced with neighbours. She would venture next door to play and eat with surrounding families. Adeagbo truly bonded with those around her.
Yet her sunny, warm days in Lagos were not without night.
“Some challenges that we faced were in terms of having a fixed availability of electricity and water from the tap,” Adeagbo said.
“Sometimes we would go hours without light, which meant that we had to change the way we prepared meals.”
Her family was fortunate enough to have a well in their backyard from which they could draw water. However, in view of the luxuries she now experiences in Canada, she believes the challenges she faced were rather inconvenient.
Immigration can help mitigate this problem.
Adeagbo recalls a time at around the age of four, when her family’s compound was flooded with rainwater. Her family lived on the top floor and did not experience much damage to their home.
Her neighbours below lost everything.
“I remember it being scary because it took hours for the water to leave the house and we were stuck upstairs until it was over.”
In 2005, along with her family, Adeagbo left Nigeria and headed to London, England. Her father studied in the U.K. and her parents believed it would be a suitable time to relocate on a family study visa.
“It was also sad leaving my family members because I wouldn’t get to see them again, even to this day.”
Her family quickly packed their clothes in preparation for the more than nine-hour-long journey. They left most of their belongings behind for relatives and friends to use.
Adeagbo enjoyed a greater sense of freedom in London. At 11 years old, she was able to adventurously travel and explore the city. She did, however, feel rather isolated. She barely knew any of her neighbours in London.
Her family spent four and a half years in London, certain they would not return to Nigeria. Fees at the prominent schools in Nigeria were about an estimated $13,000 to 15,000 a year for each child. There were also few work prospects in Nigeria.
Similarly, school fees in London were quite expensive. The process of becoming a citizen in the U.K. was very lengthy. On a family study visa, Adeagbo’s parents were given a strict limit of hours they could work. Surviving in London seemed impossible.
Adeagbo’s father had friends living in Canada. After a quick visit, he applied for permanent residency.
Adeagbo arrived in Alberta in 2010 with her mother and siblings and was promptly taken on a tour of major sites, such as Banff National Park. Her father joined the family two years later.
“I was shocked at how big the roads, cars and the houses were. Everything was just so big compared to London and even Nigeria,” Adeagbo said.
As is the case with most immigrants, settling in was challenging for Adeagbo and her family. She was held back by two grades because of her date of birth. As a middle and high school student, she found it difficult to relate to her peers.
Due to her father’s absence, for two years, her mother was the primary caregiver. She worked in retail for a time while studying in postgraduate programs before landing a job in her field of business studies.
Having spent nine years in Canada, Adeagbo has gotten accustomed to Canadian culture. Although she admits the cultural foods available in Canada often pale in comparison to their authentic counterparts, she loves to indulge in diverse meals.
Adeagbo is now a full-time undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, studying business administration with an emphasis on strategic management. She lives in Toronto and visits her family in Alberta three times a year.
Adeagbo wants to use the opportunity she has to live in Canada to leave her mark on the world.
“I plan to use my business degree to create an organization that would truly make a difference in the lives of those it will serve.”
This is an opportunity Adeagbo might not have had, if not for the decision to migrate to Canada.
WHAT IT TAKES, Part 1: An immigrant’s journey from Zimbabwe to Canada
WHAT IT TAKES, Part 2: From Nigeria to here — How Esther Adeagbo made Canada her home
WHAT IT TAKES, Part 3: Gladys Colarina had to wait 13 years before she could join her mother in Canada
WHAT IT TAKES, Part 4: How Nothabo Ncube came to Canada to realize her dream of becoming a doctor
WHAT IT TAKES, Part 5: Political turmoil drove Oksana Taran to leave Ukraine and make Canada home
WHAT IT TAKES, Part 6: Sara Eftekhar’s family spent 8 years planning their move from Iran