In October 1953, a father, a mother, seven children and one on the way stepped off a large ship at Pier 21 in Halifax.
This was followed by a four-day train trip across Canada to end up in Red Deer. With a total of $17 in pocket, this family went west to Rocky, Nordegg and Sylvan Lake, and within a couple of years, made Red Deer home.
Although they were welcomed by others of the same ethnicity, they faced some opposition in the general community.
At one point, there were 17 languages spoken at the mine in Nordegg, so it was at times difficult to understand why there seemed to be walls placed between this immigrant family and the broader community.
Although it was possible for this Caucasian family to assimilate, it was many years before they felt fully part of this beautiful country. I know that because this was my family: a family that has come to identify themselves as Canadians, and proudly so.
Regardless of my political stand, I feel a sort of kinship with the new immigrants to this country, and always have. It makes me think of the different people I have met who also came to call this country theirs. I’ll try to introduce you to them.
First Nations were the first people different than myself that I came into contact with, and even though they were here long before me, they were still strangers. I met some of them in Rocky, where they would come into town to camp along the river on the west side of the community.
My first experience with a black man was in downtown Red Deer. This man was tall, thin and had fingers that seemed a foot long. He would frequent piano stores, and with a cheerful grin, he would sit down to tickle the ivories. He was beautiful to watch.
Many restaurants were operated by Chinese immigrants who, with their peculiar bowing courtesy, would welcome you to their establishments. I would come to find them a caring and dedicated people.
I was introduced to a Sikh who I ended up hiring and becoming friends with. When he came to Canada, no one would hire him, but his laid-back acceptance of the situation made me take a second look at him and I never regretted it.
As well, I hired many Filipinos, who also proved to be great workers and beautiful, loving people.
There are many people who take offence at the number of immigrants, often using isolated issues to discredit them or to vilify them; not once acknowledging that the same types of incidents are perpetrated by incumbent citizens.
It makes you ask the question, “Whose land is it anyways?”
Face it, folks, the land was here long before any people arrived, including Indigenous people, so what really gives anyone the right to call it their own? Just because someone has migrated, then lived in a location for a long time, does not establish ownership.
In my belief, the land was given to all people to live in, work in and prosper in. It is only our own desire to be possessive and controlling that makes us feel put out by anyone else who wants to move in.
It is also the reason that we claim ownership, so that all property is bought and sold, thereby adding legitimacy to the ownership concept. We have made it work, but we have taken it one step further by limiting who we allow to become our neighbours.
We are at the point of having to make a decision about how we treat other people who have as much right as us to this piece of Earth we call ours. We should not treat them as strangers within our gates.
Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.