I’ve been working on two novels about the Canadian immigrant experience and volunteering with newcomers helps me stay in touch with the current crisis.
|A long journey war-torn Europe to a train station
in Winnipeg, July, 1953
The Ukrainian women I’ve been fortunate to coach have such beautiful names and faces. They’re so determined, so resilient, so positive-minded. Maybe they had management positions in Ukraine, here they’re grateful to clear tables, make beds or labour in sewing factories … while their children make friends, become fluent in English and grow without fear.
|Immigrant ship, the Beaverbrae
I can’t help but think of my parents. Immigrants to Canada after the Second World War, my mother had no home to return to while my father lost his first wife and two young sons. Canada took them in and gave them a safe place to raise a family.
My father could fix or build anything and he flourished in various construction related jobs while my mom ended up in a potato chip factory with other displaced people. Neither job required English skills.
Canada's many challenges include climate change, housing and support for diverse populations. Also, we’ve only recently recognized the indigenous peoples who were manipulated and abused by European invaders. That healing will take time.
Yes, we’re all from somewhere else, but we all want the same things ... fresh air, a safe home and a welcoming community.