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The Immigration Story of Mary Graham (American immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

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My husband and I had just got married in my hometown in Michigan.  A few weeks prior to the wedding, we had gone to Customs and Immigration in Hamilton for information about how to import my personal belongings, household items, and my car, and most importantly, how I should apply for status as a Landed Immigrant.  Regarding the latter, we were advised thatwhen we entered Canada after our wedding, we should stop at the border and I should make "spontaneous application", whereby I would be admitted to Canada and allowed to complete the paperwork after the fact. This was in 1972.

Alas!  Little did we know that the Ministry of Immigration headed by Ellen Fairclough, had, without warning, changed the rules in the intervening weeks, and all applications and approvals for Landed Immigrant status needed to be completed before entry to Canada would be allowed - a process that wouldtake about 6 weeks! I suddenly found myself in the strange situation in which all my belongings had successfully taken up residence in Canada, but I could not!

Thank God for the Immigration officer.  I still remember him - a rather stern looking middle aged gentleman, who apparently had a kind heart, for he disappeared into an office to make a phone call...then another...and finally one more.  Each time he'd come out and ask me another question, gathering information to help make my case.  Yes, I had already quit my nursing job and given up my apartment.  Yes, all of my household goods and my car were already in Canada. All I had with me were the clothes on my back, the contents of one suitcase, and some wedding presents. Finally, he came out with a sheaf of papers and a grin and said "You are probably the last person getting in this way, but they're letting you in as a hardship case.  Welcome to Canada!"

Needless to say my new hubby and I were limp with relief and very greatful to this man who'd taken pity on us and gone out of his way to help.  Once settled in our new home together in Waterdown, I filed my papers as soon as I could arrange for a physical from my new doctor, and officially became a Canadian Landed Immigrant June 18, 1973. This was a far cry from the estimated "6 weeks" I was toldit might take, so I was even more grateful I wasn't languishing away in Michigan all that time, waiting to cross the border to live with my new husband!

As an interesting end to the story, I was working as an RN at McMaster Hospital many years later, and had the priviledge of caring for Mrs. Fairclough.  She was a delightful lady, interested in knowing how she 'd ended up with an American girl as her nurse, so I jokingly told her, "I've had a bone to pick with you for about 25 years now."  So I told her the story of how I got into Canada as a"hardship case", something my husband thought was hysterical and used to tease me about from time to time, and that I figured it was all her fault. She looked amazed, and then she threw back her head and laughed and laughed.  "Well", she finally said as she wiped her eyes, "I'm glad we let youin."  Truthfully, I've never regretted it either.