Witnessing Transformation: Personal and Demographic Change in Brampton
Written by Won Ki Lee
I conducted an interview with Fatima, a middle-aged mother of three that lives in Brampton. She is well-educated and completed degrees in both India and Canada and she currently works as an elementary school teacher, teaching core French to her students. She and her family belong to the middle-class.
When I first approached her about taking part in the interview, she was eager to participate because I had been talking to her about my own experiences studying abroad and she found something in common between herself and my story. During our interview, she always had a smile on her face and was very kind and straightforward while answering the questions I asked. At first, she seemed quite reserved when replying to the questions. However, as the interview progressed, she sounded much more confident in answering the questions and opened up much more about her life in Brampton over the years.
Fatima was born and raised in India and lived there until she got married in 1987. After she got married, she and her husband first moved to Saudi Arabia. They spent about 2 years there and she became pregnant with her first child. She stated that she went back to India to give birth so that she could have her mother by her side. A few months later, she moved to Canada. She said “after the birth of my first child, my husband and I decided that we wanted to immigrate to Canada, so we could provide more opportunities for our family.” They first settled in a small Québécois village in 1990, where she became pregnant with her second child. After a few months of living in Québec, Fatima and her husband decided to move to Brampton. Fatima explained “after living in Québec for a few months, I still had a hard time communicating with others [because I did not speak French] and I was intimidated to go outside.” Soon after, they decided to move to Brampton, as her sister-in-law’s family lived there. Fatima said that she and her husband briefly lived in her sister-in-laws house until they could find an apartment.
Fatima and her husband rented their first apartment unit in Brampton in 1993. At the time, the apartment was enough for her family of four. They had a small kitchen, one bathroom, and two bedrooms, but they were able to manage. Her neighbours were friendly, but they all had similar financial statuses. Like her own family, most of her neighbours were young families who were just starting to build their financial stability.
She and her husband kept saving money so that they could one day buy a house. “When I became pregnant with my third child, my husband and I decided that it was time for us to look into buying a house because we needed more space for our growing family,” she stated. They settled on a house in a quiet neighbourhood that had much more space, and most importantly, three bathrooms and three bedrooms. This allowed enough room for Fatima’s parents to immigrate and live with her in Brampton. According to Fatima, she and her husband chose this neighbourhood because it was “close to school and it was in a quite area with friendly neighbours.”
After 16 years of living in the same house, they decided it was time to move into a house with more rooms. At this point, their financial status was higher and they were more middle-class, meaning they could afford to move into a more spacious house. Although there was some resistance from her children at first, they were able to compromise by finding a bigger house in a neighbourhood close to their first house. The new house Fatima and her family bought was very different from their first house. Firstly, their new house was located on a court that was very close to an open soccer field. The inside layout of their house also differed. This new house originally had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. However, Fatima and her husband decided to renovate the basement to include an additional two bedrooms and one bathroom.
After living in Brampton for about 20 years, Fatima noticed a lot of changes in both the city and its population. When she first came to live here, there were many less buildings in Brampton and many more open fields. However over time, Fatima noticed how more and more apartments, houses, stores, restaurants, and other buildings have been emerging. “My husband and I always joke about how there aren’t many green spaces anymore. Before, it was so spacious in Brampton that we saw deer walking around all the time,” she stated.
As for the population, Fatima explained how there has been a noticeably large increase in the Indian population that lives in Brampton. One thing she appreciates about this growth is that it made it much easier to find the ethnic spices and ingredients she uses in her cooking. She even joked about how Brampton had such a big Indian population now that even Freshco is catering to the population growth by opening a store called Chalo! Freshco, which sells many Indian products and caters to the growing Indian population in Brampton. Through this interview, I could learn just how much the ethnic demographics have changed the landscape in Brampton over a span of 20 years.
Won Ki Lee is an international student who flew over from South Korea and who is a passionate social science student at UTM.