Saturday, September 12, 2015

History of Immigration

I sometimes say that as I am a first generation Canadian, my interest in Canadian history is not driven by roots, not shaped by identification with the heroic struggles my ancestors yeah, yeah, yeah. I am shameless about appropriating the vast Canadian ancestry of my children and wife to illustrate historical events and trends whenever convenient, while claiming a detached cerebral understanding at the same time.

As we sailed up the St. Lawrence Gulf and River in recent days, I gave a talk about immigration and nation-building, with a lot of emphasis on the restrictive preferences of the pre-1970s era and the opening to the world by which Canada has been transformed since.

And I illustrated it with the picture above. The little British boys there are perfect illustrations of the British-immigrant preference that Canada maintained in 1954. No barriers, no quotas, no immigrant point scores, they just came. Their family was coming by Canadian Pacific ship from Liverpool, up the St. Lawrence to disembark at Montreal. There they transferred to the Canadian Pacific rail and headed west to settle.

But my claim to cerebral dispassion was wobbling a bit. The small boy in the foreground is me.

I don't remember that voyage at all; I was too young. But the last couple of days I have made the voyage for the second time, on deck as much as possible, following the spectacular route up the slowly narrowing river, then following the passage as it twists south of the Ile d'Orléans, and finally into the Bassin de Quebec, to dock at the Lower Town cruise-ship centre this morning.

I do identify after all.  I've become an historical example myself.  Sail on, you lucky kid.
Follow @CmedMoore