This is me in my first school photo. I’m top row second from the right. This was taken in Ayr around 1971 back when the world was still in black and white. I remember that Scotland had rolling blackouts as they turned the power off for a few hours each night because of energy shortages. We had these weird little squat candles that would burn for about two hours. It’s strange to think that just four years after this picture we’d have immigrated to Canada to start a new and what would ultimately be a better life.
My father of course had been in Canada for two years prior to bringing the rest of us over. There had been a series of interim jobs on a variety of farms prior to him making his way to Vancouver, BC where he went into construction and pipeline welding. He’d been sponsored by my uncle who had emigrated to Canada years previously but our family on my Dad’s side had had a long association with this country through aviation and my Grandfather’s work (he managed maintenance contracts for the Canadian Air Force in Europe and the UK).
My father’s flight over was on a 747, I’m not sure of which airline but coach consisted mostly of Chinese nationals making their way to Canada to also start a new life. The person manning the check in counter asked my dad if he wanted to be moved into another class on the flight. Basically a, “Whiter,” class. My dad had more than a few faults but being a racist wasn’t one of them. As far as he was concerned everybody in coach was basically looking for the same thing he was, a new start. He declined the offer of an upgrade.
When I finally made it to Canada the culture shock was enormous. I was basically a rural kid. I had a thick Scottish accent and spoke in a Borders dialect which could be pretty hard to understand. I had to learn a whole series of new words and how to function in what was to me a massive city. It wasn’t easy. I was greatly relieved when we moved out into the Fraser Valley and Abbotsford a year later.
I guess my point of all this back story is this.
I know it’s easy to be afraid of outsiders, be they immigrants or refugees but to my mind they (we) are just seeking a better life, a new start, a place to grow. A lot of them would have preferred to stay but event or circumstance forces your hand. That’s what happened to my family. We had a couple of bad years on the farm and the only way out was to get out of Scotland and start fresh in Canada. Back then it was hard for me. I was leaving a culture I was firmly a part of, friends and land that I loved. Canada was a huge unknown for me. Of course by the time I could understand a bit of the world I knew that the opportunities open to me here in my new country were far greater than rural Scotland of the eighties as Maggie Thatcher and her lot did their damage.
So yes, I support our Prime Minister’s goal of relocating 25,000 refugees from Syria and no, I’m not afraid because I’m an immigrant and I love this country and in time once the culture shock wears off, I’m sure they will too.
Waterskiing on Harrison Lake, BC – 1980
Working on the foundation of my first house Sumas, BC – 1986