Open Jaw’s Canada Day series: Featuring Uprooted Guyanese Christine James

Open Jaw

Christine James

Even though her earliest memories of Canada were living with her extended family of 14 in a 3 bedroom apartment,'s Vice President has only positive things to say about her adopted country.

Where do you live? In North York, near Toronto.

Where were you born? In Geogetown, Guyana.

When did you come to Canada? When I was 11.

Why Canada? A couple of reasons: My mother's sister was already living in Montreal, where we first moved, and at that time Guyana was part of the commonwealth so it was more logical and easier to do the paperwork.

What were your 1 st impressions? The weather! We'd actually had winter coats made for all of us in Guyana (10 of us came together, my parents and me and 7 of my 9 siblings), but seeing snow for the 1 st time was memorable. From seeing it on TV and in the movies I had thought it would be the consistency of ice cream, so that was a disappointing discovery!

10 of you moved in with your aunt? Yes – into a 3 bedroom apartment, so we were 14 altogether for a few months until we got our own place.

What was your 1 st job here? We moved to Toronto in 1973 and when I was 15 graduated from high school. But I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I worked for a year in customer service for a mail order company and discovered how much I liked working with people, which is why I enrolled for a 3 year travel and tourism course at Centennial College.

What do you appreciate most about being Canadian? I feel very honoured and privileged, because beyond having a great health care and social infrastructure and more or less economic stability, Canada is a very welcoming country.

If you could live anywhere in Canada, where would it be? I love Montreal and, if my French were better, I'd likely live there – I love the European flair. But I do appreciate Toronto, especially for its diversity.

What do you think would make Canada an even better place? Tough question. I just worked out that I've visited over 80 countries. While I love the experiences and people, I can't think of a better place to live given our social and economic factors. The only thing we could improve would be the weather!

How do you traditionally spend Canada day? My husband is from Ottawa and we go there to Parliament Hill – the best place to be on Canada Day! And, of course, we wear our Canada T-shirts.

What do you think you'd be doing if you had remained in Guyana? A tough question because I left so long ago, but definitely some sort of business with a lot of customer interaction.

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