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Ethel Suarez
Citizenship and Belonging to a Country

Time 0:02:27


ES: The day of the ceremony—first they give you a test and then after they say if you pass or not, and we pass the test, and then after we went to the ceremony that for us is for something new because well we have to be in front of all the—the judge and immigration people that they came from Calgary, and authorities here and the mayor of the city. Okay we swear that we are going to become a good citizens and we sing “O Canada” and they give us the citizenship paper and this—how I will say? I become a real person again when I receive that document.

CB: What did that mean to you?

ES: That we are people again. That we are alive and we belong to a country. That was the—excuse me—that was very important to us, to have a paper that says who we are. And to belong a country that accept me without questioning me. Let me free here. That you are here, that you belong to a community and you can do things for the community too. That was one of the—even my husband when he got the paper says, “We are people again. We belong to somewhere.” Because the feeling not to belonging is a bad feeling when you don’t belong anywhere.

Ethel Suarez was born in Salto, Uruguay in 1944. After Ethel was married in 1962, she and her husband moved to the city of Montevideo where they opened a business administration school.

In 1973, a military coup forced many people to leave Uruguay because of their political beliefs. Ethel and her husband belonged to a political party that was banned by the new government and they were repeatedly harassed and threatened by the military. Ethel, her husband and their three children fled to Argentina in 1974 where they lived for the next three years. With the assistance of the United Nations, Ethel and her family came to Canada as refugees in 1977.

The family settled in Red Deer, Alberta where Ethel and her husband opened and operated a successful carpentry business. Ethel sold the business five years later after her husband passed away in 1985. Currently, Ethel works as a disability counsellor in Red Deer. She is also involved with CARE (Central Alberta Refugee Effort), an organization that assists new immigrants and refugees in Red Deer.

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