Becoming Canadian

After a life fleeing persecution, Jemal Yonis's family found peace in Canada

Jemal Yonis was born in Ethiopia and now lives in Halifax. He became a Canadian citizen on August 18, 2016 in Halifax. Before Canada, Jemal, his wife and two daughters lived in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp in Kenya.

"I lived in a refugee camp for more than five years."

After a life running from persecution, Jemal Yonis has found peace, acceptance, and security for his family in Canada.

5 years ago
Duration 2:05
“I received a call and someone told me to leave within 24 hours.” New citizen Jemal Yonis shares his story of escaping persecution in Ethiopia.

This story is part of Becoming Canadian, a year-long project sharing stories of struggle and triumph from new Canadian citizens.

"Home is home, it's beautiful, but I left my country to save my life. Back home [in Ethiopia] there are political issues. Everything is governed by tribe. I am from Oroma tribe."

I was tortured because of my background.

"I was tortured because of my background. I was released under certain conditions. Then I received a call, and somebody told me they're coming after you, to leave within 24 hours. I left within a single night. I crossed the Kenyan border on foot. I lived in a refugee camp for more than five years. I was married at the time, my wife was pregnant with my first daughter. I left my pregnant wife — my everything. After I left, my wife was also persecuted. She was forced to leave and she joined me after a year in the refugee camp. Imagine you leave your beloved wife, and a child in its mother's womb. When they come all of a sudden, I don't have a word how to describe that happiness. We have our second daughter in the refugee camp. After a year and a half, we came to Canada and we're living in Halifax. I believe my future is bright. I live in freedom, I don't fear any persecution. I can walk freely." 

— Jemal Yonis, born in Ethiopia. Lives in Halifax, became a Canadian citizen on August 18, 2016 in Halifax. 

To find more stories about the struggles and triumphs of new Canadian citizens, follow Canada 2017 on Facebook and @BecomingCDN on Instagram and Twitter.