A letter to Cousin Marjorie

Posted 8.7.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | I've thought about the remarks you made at our last family dinner, and I want to add a few notes to that discussion about new Canadians and immigrants -- and even about people who are Canadians but different than most in our family.

Mandy's husband is a First Nations guy, even if he does seem "so Canadian"! I know you are fair-minded and I don't recall hearing anything negative or hostile from you -- until that discussion after dinner.

You are right that many people now coming to Canada do seem to want to bring their culture and religion with them and want to preserve it here. But isn't that more like providing themselves some insulation from all the newness they find here? Their culture and clothing are like "comfort food" in an environment that is strange -- even hostile.

Cousin, think about that -- wouldn't you do exactly the same thing if you and Ronnie decided to emigrate, say, to Argentina? Tell me you wouldn't insist on real maple syrup!

Back to our university days, remember those "strangers" who were with us then, and think about them now. Those I'm still in contact with are now indistinguishable from middle-class Canadians in general -- they've given up their strict religious rules and even the beliefs of their own parents. Two of them, whom I meet now and then, are married to "non-believers", according to their parents -- and they seem quite happy.

Don't you think the attractions and opportunities offered by our society are much too strong for immigrant families to remain bound and gagged, if I may use your language, to old-country manners and customs? Haven't you noticed this evolution? Yet if we had judged them when they were still young and heavily influenced by their old-school parents, wouldn't we have dismissed them as "un-Canadian"? The power of pop music and our youth culture seems incredible!

My last note is to remind you of our own immigrant past ... who in Canada did not begin as immigrants? That includes aboriginal peoples -- scientists have tracked waves of their arrival to this continent -- admittedly a long time ago, and we're just presuming there was no one here before them.

Shouldn't our Irish roots make us very careful not to demonize immigrants -- because the Irish were severely demonized. Being Catholics we were accused of wanting to impose "Papism", or rule by the Pope, can you imagine! The Irish were victims of really awful, awful propaganda -- we were seen as illiterate and stupid, impoverished, lazy -- and unclean!

In the social media of the day, the Irish were accused of all sorts of crimes -- killing unwanted babies, stealing from our elders, criminality, incest, and protecting a clergy that abused our own children. Italians, Jews, Blacks, Japanese ... all were demonized because they were different.

Cousin, we integrated generations ago. Shouldn't we give these new people, whose energy, labour, and buying power we need, the chance to do what our own ancestors were allowed to do?.


Copyright © 2018 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/8.18