July 25, 2017

Living in Canada By Vickie Stam

I was born and raised in Canada. Both of my parents were as well. My father was born in Kapuskasing in northern Ontario. French was his first language. He finished grade eight and went to work in a bakery to help support his large family. With ten siblings at the dinner table a pot of soup had to go a long way and there were no second helpings. Christmas meant a new pair of socks. Love and affection wasn't doled out the way it is today. My father grew up knowing his parents loved him - not by hearing the words, "I love you" over and over throughout the day. Times were different back then.

My mother grew up in Belleville, Ontario some 940 kilometers away. Her family was small in comparison. Only two siblings but there were hard times for her as well. My grandmother raised them single handedly. My grandfather died when my mother was three years old. Food was scarce. On a disability pension because she suffered from polio, my grandmother had to make the money stretch. My mother also knew that her mother loved her. And not because she was told. Mom finished grade eleven and eventually she moved the Hamilton area where she worked on mushroom farm in Burlington, Ontario.

My father moved to the Hamilton area for work. He made deliveries to the farm where my mother worked and the rest - you guessed. Three months later they married.

Nine months and three days later my sister, Karen was born. Six years later, Angela and then seventeen months later, I came into the world.  

I was born in Burlington and raised in Hamilton. My mother was First Nations. Mohawk from the Bay of Quinte. My father is French. This made for some interesting times in our parent's home during the Oka Crisis; the land dispute between the Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec in July of 1990. It's safe to say that the atmosphere in their home was more than tense. My sister's and I knew not to bring the subject up. Not a word. And if dad slipped and decided to bring it up my sister's and I were looking for someplace to hide. But they survived the stand-off in their house and were married for 53 years when my mother passed away in 2009. Our family chose her place of rest and  and what it says on her headstone. A choice we have here in Canada.

Growing up we never travelled much. Picton to go camping. Up north to see family and of course the Belleville area, but that's as far as we went.

The first time I travelled on a plane was in July of 2005. I didn't much like the ride. I just liked how quick I arrived. I went with a friend to explore Prince Edward Island; someplace other than Ontario. I was in awe of the red sand and the quiet lifestyle. The slow pace was intriguing to me. The land was full of hills and the ocean breath view was taking.

In January of 2006 my husband, Tony proposed. Shortly after he flew out west for a Pork Producer's meeting. When he phoned me, he was ecstatic. "Vickie, if you thought PEI was beautiful - this place will knock your socks off!" He promised to take me there one day. I'm still waiting to lose my socks....

That was eleven years ago and now that Tony and I are retired from raising pigs that trip out west should be coming.  

I have to admit that I'm not much into politics. I read the paper everyday and I don't like learning about all of the violence that exists in Canada but I'm still happy that I live here and not in other more violent countries. 

Here I am able to choose my own path. Career, religion, number of children I have and so on. I can choose to live where I want and marry the person I want - not one who was chosen for me. I love the choices we have in Canada!

When I travel outside of Canada I'm always glad to be back.  It simply feels good to be home... 


  1. I loved reading your family history. It is so amazing how tough previous generations had it but I like how in your family, even without words, the love came through. And what an intense situation between your mother and father but obviously handled with enough grace to not destroy your family. I hope you make it out west. I'm assuming he was talking about B.C. (All the western provinces are beautiful but people are usually blown away by the mountains and ocean of course) Our little hamlet is right off the Trans Canada (Saskatchewan) on the way if you happen to be driving ;)

    1. I hope I make it out west sometime soon. It would be wonderful to stop in and visit you! Tony was blown away by the mountains and I am equally intrigued to see them now. Family history is so amazing. How times change, cultural differences are much common today. I think marriages were less eager to pull the trigger on going their separate ways during my parent's era. I'm sure that it wasn't easy for them to get through the Oka Crisis without conflict of their own.

  2. Thanks, Vickie, for sharing this intriguing part of your life story. When I was a young child, we didn't have any extra money either. You bring home the reality of the Oka Crisis as it would be in a family of mixed origin. That is impressive that their marriage could survive this situation that we followed with dismay in the news.

    We used to joke about my parents' being mixed, as Mom was Norwegian and Dad was Swedish; Mom's family attended the Lutheran Church, while Dad's family attended the Mission Covenant Church.

    1. It can be difficult for marriages to survive those cultural differences but for my parent's they also got married during a different era as well. Mom was a 'stay-at-home' mom and very dependent on my father. I know during the Oka Crisis my parent's finally agreed to not talk about with each other. Sometimes dad couldn't help himself but for the most part I think that was their saving grace during that time.


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