Canada Day special for Queen Charlotte family

  • Jun. 27, 2007 2:00 p.m.

This Canada Day will be a special one for the Kunz family of Queen Charlotte. It’s the first one they’re celebrating as full Canadian citizens. The family – father Stephan, mother Gabriela, 12-year-old Lara and nine-year-old Jonas – moved here from Switzerland three-and-a-half years ago. Last month, in a ceremony in Smithers, they became Canadians. Sitting in their bright kitchen, which is adorned with postcards from Switzerland and Stephan’s woodwork, Gabriela recounts how they became citizens of a new country. Stephan, who worked as a forest warden in Switzerland, had always been intrigued by the idea of moving to Canada, with its vast spaces and forests. He and Gabriela often discussed it, but one would be tentative when the other was enthusiastic. But one day, she said, she realized that they could grow old without having ever done what they had talked about so much, and they resolved to take action. Gabriela, a nurse, started researching what she needed to do to work as a nurse in Canada. Both husband and wife could speak some English, learned at school. She had to fly to Vancouver to write an exam, then she had to get a job offer from a hospital, and apply for permanent resident status. She sent out letters to every small hospital she could find in BC and Alberta, which she had targeted as where the family wanted to be. The whole process took several years.Through these contacts she made a nursing friend in Mackenzie, and visited that community. Then she got a job offer from Prince Rupert, and went to check it out. She didn’t like Rupert, but while she was there she visited Haida Gwaii for six days and loved it. She decided that Queen Charlotte was the perfect place for her family’s new home, and they all moved here in January 2004.Asked what they like about Canada, Stephan and Gabriela point to the mountains, the ocean, and say that most of all, they treasure the space. Switzerland is about four times the size of the Charlottes, they said, and contains seven-and-a-half million people. The towns are full of people and the roads are congested with traffic.Also, says Stephan, “In Switzerland, there are lots of regulations and laws. You can’t even build a playhouse in the yard without permission.”But they still have strong ties to Switzerland, and have Swiss citizenship as well as Canadian.To celebrate Canada Day this year, Gabriela and Stephan say they will probably go with Lara and Jonas to the celebrations in Port Clements, and are looking forward to that uniquely Canadian event, the mud bog race.

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