Mildred Jean-Paul

Country of Origin:

Canada

Themes:

Black History/African Heritage, Francophonie, Human Rights & Social Justice, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity

Photos:

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Bio

Mildred is a consultant with Investors Group Financial Services, specializing in financial planning for individuals and small business owners. Originally from Montreal, she has lived in Toronto for over five years. Prior to joining Investors Group, Mildred held positions in investment communications. She is a Board member for the Toronto Haitian Professionals Association (GPHT), and the College Boreal. She is also an occasional contributor with Radio Canada, where she hosts a personal finances segment. She is an avid Taekwondo practitioner.

Story

My parents left Haiti and came to Canada back in the 1970s. They settled in Montreal, Quebec, believing that the process would be easier due to the language. As most immigrants, their goal was to create a better life for themselves and their family. I believe they were successful in doing so. My brother, sister and I were born here, we speak both languages fluently, were brought up and immersed in the Canadian culture with all its diversity. We graduated school and started our respective careers. Over time, I did become aware of one interesting fact: my parents never really sat down with us to either formally teach us Haitian Creole or extensively tell us about their life in Haiti. Everything I know today, I had to proactively ask them. My friends in school, who were also of Haitian background, experienced the same reality. I asked my mother why she made that decision, and she told me that she didn’t want us to be discriminated against because of a perceived accent. She believed things would be difficult enough and we didn’t need to add an unnecessary language barrier. That got me thinking of the differences between my friend and I. That was my first cultural shock. I continued to imagine and dream how life could have been, had my parents stayed in Haiti. We made frequent trips back to their home country during my childhood, which inspired me to connect with this part of my heritage and make it an integral part of my Canadian identity.

When I think of Haiti, there is one very significant memory that always comes to mind. During our summer trips, we would always go back to the town where my mother lived, Meyotte. My grandfather was a mason and he helped build the entire town. He was a strong character, respected and a little feared by those around him. He was, however, always so sweet to me. The first thing he would do upon our arrival was to give me and my cousins small pocket knives that we could use to pick fruits and run in the fields. Even after so many years, I can still remember the feeling of freedom, being able to run on such wide distances, no backyards, no fences, and basically eat fresh fruits anytime I wanted. What a difference compared to our fenced-in lives in the Montreal suburbs. Freedom!