On Canada Day, our nation’s birthday this past weekend, I accompanied our daughter and granddaughters to see the fireworks. The girls, five and seven, were hyped up on sugar because of the S’mores we’d had at a campfire in the backyard. The girls jumped, did cart wheels and hand stands and danced the time away while we waited. We giggled, laughed, tickled and reminisced about thirty years ago when their Mom was a girl too.
As I pulled the blanket over us on that cold July 1st, I thought about families all over the world and what they want for themselves and their children. They want freedom to speak and live as they wish, to love and worship as they choose. They want to care for and support their families, to contribute to their world and live in peace. However, these are difficult to acquire in our present world.
My family’s ancestors came from Scotland, Ireland and England. We will never know their reasons for immigrating to eastern North America centuries ago; their stories have been lost. Not the case for those who are new to our area, having come from various parts of the world, choosing to make Prince Edward Island their home.
How fortunate they are to have the knowledge of their original homeland and their cultures and traditions to share with their children and us. Our world expands and improves with the hard work of these newcomers, helping to build a diverse Canada.
Last year, my husband and I visited Pier 21, the Museum of Immigration in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Canadian equivalent to Ellis Island. One of the displays was the Wheel of Conscience by Daniel Libeskind, a child of Holocaust survivors.
The moving gears in the monument are a reminder of the gears in a ship and those in a Canadian government which turned away the ship MS St. Louis in 1939. It’s 900 Jewish passengers, whose names are inscribed on the reverse of the monument, were fleeing Nazi Germany. Canadian government policy on Jewish immigrants at the time was “none is too many.” Canada was their last hope so they were forced back to Europe on the eve for the war. Of the 900, 254 died in the Holocaust while many of the others suffered terribly.
The four moving gears represent hatred, racism, xenophobia and antisemitism which destroy a society. We must be vigilant to see that refugees and immigrants continue to have a place in the Canadian mosaic.
The Canada Day celebration was an emotional one for me. Tears flowed as the fireworks exploded right above us. The occasion was a reminder that when we exclude others, “none is too many.”