Saskatoon woman battled addiction, poverty during life

Roderick Benns

From the sand and sun of her childhood days in coastal England to her small public housing residence in Saskatoon, Vanessa Greene has had a lifetime of ups and downs. Now 69, her highs and lows were reflective of both the grip of poverty and the pull of addiction.

Vanessa lived in Bournemouth, England, a coastal resort town known for its temperate climate and miles of elegant beaches. Until the age of 9, she remembers swimming there as often as possible. However, one day her father made a life-altering decision. He decided that his young family needed a big change. Vanessa’s father thought that a greater land of opportunity could be found, instead, in England’s younger, Commonwealth friend — Canada.

“My father got an idea in his head that Canada was the land of milk and honey. So when I was nine we immigrated.”

The family arrived first in London, Ontario, where a paternal aunt lived.

“My mother thought it was the path to hell. She cried every night,” Vanessa says.

Vanessa remembers her father was told by the Immigration officials in England that he “wouldn’t have any trouble getting a job here.”

But when he arrived they told him that he would have to re-take his courses for embalming. Her father said he had a wife and two kids to support and couldn’t take the time to go back to school.

“So he started working at a loading dock, then ended up in sales,” says Vanessa.

Her mother, for the first time in her married life, began working as an admitting clerk at a hospital in London. She didn’t care for the position at all.

When her father worked for a plumbing supply company in London, he was soon transferred to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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