Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Canada's History 2011 08-09

I was talking history once with a school class in north Toronto. The students were friendly, laughing, glad to have a classroom visitor to enliven the day. They personified that tremendous ethnocultural mix we now see in Canadian cities. The school had a poster in the hall listing the vast range of languages its families spoke at home. Many of these kids or their parents had recently lived in Somalia, or Guatemala, or China. Can you engage a group like that with the staples of Canadian history the fur trade, the Plains of Abraham, Louis Riel, the Great Depression, and the Constitution? Yes, you can. And one place 1 often start is with immigration itself. How newcomers and the already-settled relate to each other could be the central story of Canadian history, I like to say. For a long time, people have been coming from other places to live here. That day, I displayed to the class a photograph of one immigrant group: Hungarian refugees from the suppressed anti-Soviet revolution of 1956. The photo showed a group of them walking up the gangplank from a ship at Halifax or Montreal. I mentioned that a shipside gangplank was also how I set foot in this country, as a toddler guided by my mother and big brothers.