Canada is known for being “multicultural”. Some parts of the country are more multicultural than others. I grew up in the city of Windsor, in the province of Ontario. For those who don’t know, Windsor sits on the Canada/USA border. We are right across the river from Detroit, Michigan. Windsor is home to immigrants from around the world. People move from abroad to live in our awkward little city.
Windsor has a long and interesting history, along with Detroit. This blog entry isn’t about Windsor though. I mention the city, because growing up, I knew a lot of immigrants and refugees. One of my best friends, Bill, was from Guatemala. He was around seven when they moved out of Central America, but he didn’t remember a lot about his home country. His mother had plenty of stories, mostly positive ones about her childhood.
Growing up, my parents raised me in the Anglican faith. I denounced religion at the age of fifteen, but that’s another story. Despite my quarrels with religion, our church was full of caring and decent people. Members of our congregation, including my parents, volunteered to house refugees from El Salvador. I must have been five-years-old at the time. A family of five; two parents and three children, stayed with us for a short time. They stayed in our basement until they could find a permanent home. I don’t have many memories from that time, but it was a positive experience. They are all doing well. The kids, now in their thirties and forties, are doing better than I am, lol. After three decades, they are still good friends with my family and myself.
Most of the cities I’ve live in, have been large hubs for immigration. I spent eight years living in Vancouver, and five, and counting, living in Toronto. I’ve gotten to know people from every continent, and from some unique countries. They moved to Canada for various reasons. Some of them loved their homelands. Others wanted to get the hell out there. Some of them fell in love with Canada. Others, not so much. Canada is not without its issues.
My Grandma Griffin immigrated to Canada, from England, after World War 2. She had fallen in love with a Canadian soldier. My Grandma had a lot of good stories about what life was like in England during WW2. England was a prime target for the Nazi army. She lived through bombings and food rationing. Her stories of Canada, the death of her first husband, and the adoption of my father were just as interesting. Grandma Griffin passed away years ago, and I miss her.
I enjoy conversations with people from abroad. Whether they are visitors, immigrants, or refugees, I’m always up for learning more about other lands and cultures. I’m often surprised by the things people have lived through, and how their countries of origin differ from Canada. The range in attitudes is just as fascinating.
Back in 2007, I was trying to get work in the film industry as a lighting technician. I had just acquired my “permittee status” with IATSE (International Alliance of Technical Stage Employees) when a writer’s strike hit. This forced me to find other work.
A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of a landscaping company he had worked for. It was brutal work, but it held me over for a couple of months. One co-worker I hit it off with was a fella from Sierra Leone. He was one of the hardest workers I’d ever met, and had a great sense of humour as well. He told me stories of home, and those stories could have come right out of the movie “Blood Diamond”. It was hard to believe such a good natured man could have lived through such a terrifying ordeal. He described watching people get stabbed right in front of him. That was just a regular reality for them.
Hearing stories of people’s past lives, and their hopes and motivations, helps confirm or dispel assumptions. I recently had a chat with a man from Saudi Arabia, who’s a refugee and an atheist. He’s a fellow nerd, so conversation came easy. Pretty much everything you hear about Saudi Arabia, he confirmed to be true. Not a healthy or safe place for free-thinkers.
Immigrants and refugees aren’t the only people in Canada with good stories to tell. You can never be too sure what lives people have lived. I know countless home-grown Canadians with unbelievable stories to tell. In Vancouver, I had a friend who’s nickname is “Elk”. Put a couple of beers in him, and he’ll tell you some stories.
Working in the entertainment industry, I’ve seen people do things you wouldn’t believe had you not seen it for yourself. I was sworn to secrecy on some of them, so you won’t hear them from me. Nothing criminal, just stories people want to keep to themselves. Privacy is still a thing… I think.
The world is full of amazing tales, and you can never be sure where you’ll find the best of them.
You can learn more about the author, Chris Griffin, at About Me.