Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Our Home and Native Lands

A fifteen minute walk along the footpaths of my neighbourhood brings me to a lovely community park, complete with man-made lake, fishing dock, playground, picnic areas and a mini water park. The area has evolved to reflect the changing population over the past twenty years.

When I first moved to this region, the park contained a small amphitheatre where local talent entertained audiences on summer nights and weekends. As its popularity diminished, the area was transformed into a children's splash pad to accommodate the increasing number of young families who reside here. Looking around at the variety of kidlet faces, it's evident that ours is a multicultural community.

I've been walking and biking the paths of this park system for years. There are familiar faces that nod and greet me, and occasional characters who make a point of actually stopping to chat for a bit. Yesterday evening, my path crossed with another regular whom I hadn't yet seen this summer, so I joined him on the park bench to visit for a few moments. We discussed how the neighbourhood has grown, and he referred to the bustling park as having once been "this area's best kept secret." As we continued talking, it soon became apparent that he was displeased with the growth.

"There are so many new people in the area now." he said while nodding toward a dark-skinned jogger "The whole face of the city has changed."

I knew where he was heading and I hoped to redirect the conversation somewhat by saying that I thought change was usually a pretty good thing. He glanced at me and agreed that change can be positive as long as it wasn't forced upon us. His eyes locked with mine for a brief moment, and I vaguely detected a challenge. I regretted asking it as soon as the words left my mouth, but there was no retreating. "How so?"

He said "Well, as long as they adapt, and do things the way we do them here, and not try to force their ways on us."

I should have let it go, but I had to persist. "Like what?"

"Well, you know. Like curry." He smiled and rolled his eyes at the same time.

Curry? People are forcing curry on us? This fellow expressed his concern for wayward cooking spices, while his cigarette smoke wafted over to me and settled in my hair. I smiled back at him, told him that I happened to like curry, and then abruptly changed the subject before continuing my walk.

I was born here, as were my parents, though none of my grandparents were native-born Canadians. As I see it, this made them immigrants, and they were probably subject to the criticism and complaints of locals who felt they had to endure the influx of the foreigners of their time. They came from Poland, Russia and England, and brought with them their beliefs, language, traditions and recipes. They adapted to Canadian customs while maintaining their own, and over time, we were enriched by how their cultures shaped ours. The fact that immigrants feel secure enough to practice their beliefs and celebrate their culture while embracing ours, is one of the many freedoms that should make us feel proud of Canada, not critical of it.

Sadly, there are people who see immigrant as synonymous with illegal, Muslim with terrorist, and visible minority with foreigner. Too often I hear feelings expressed that sadden me. In the wake of 911, we were constantly reminded to exercise tolerance. Although it was intended as open-minded and giving, I found the sentiment to be quite distressing. I don't want to go about my life being tolerated. I want to be respected, if not always because of my differences, at least in spite of them.

By virtue of a generation or three, today's immigrants are the same Canadians our ancestors were. In time, their children will be born into their citizenship as our parents were, and their grandchildren will have always felt that they belong, just as we do. I hope that as they encounter the diverse, new faces and languages in the parks and city streets, it will enkindle both their sense of pride and belonging. As such, their lives and ours can only be enriched.

Crabby McSlacker over at Cranky Fitness has an interesting blog post called "What's That THING In My Brain?" where she discusses "unconscious prejudice." She links to a website where you can take a series of tests on this topic, conducted by Harvard University. Make sure you bookmark Crabby's blog while you're there, and return often. She's always informative, interesting and funny.

Throughout the summer, you can find animated groups assembled around these waterfront tables playing cards, chess, checkers and other games. These folks have gathered to play Mahjong.

This small dock is often packed with people and their fishing rods. It's a great spot for children to learn, newbies (like me) to practice and even experienced anglers to pass some time.

Around a distant bend, you can see just how many people had the same idea about wetting their lines that day.

On a scorching, hot day, the splash pad offers cool, wet fun for these kidlets.

Catch it if you can!

A mom manages to stay dry while she keeps a watchful eye on her child.

Despite the lack of sand, these little girls brought toys for digging, packing and floating.

This mischievous, little cutie found a way to use her sand pail to help her friend cool off.

Water, water everywhere...


Frank Baron said...

When very young, I was referred to as a "DP" (displaced person) because of my Ukrainian background. There was prejudice against the post-war influx of immigrants. Some things never change. But time, education and intermingling eventually erase barriers.

Fine post Hilary and some terrific pics. :)

Hilary said...


I don't think I'd ever heard that term before you mentioned it.

I hope you're right about those barriers

Anonymous said...

Ever thought of writing a book?
Beautiful words and beautiful pictures, as usual. I think we both have Dad's knack for photography!
See you Saturday,

Crabby McSlacker said...

What a wonderful post and such incredible pictures!

Thanks so much for the plug by the way--sorry I've gotten behind on all my blog visits.

I find it amazing that people will go out of their way to let you know how bigoted they are, like they're proud of it. Curry! Other people shouldn't eat it because he doesn't like it! What a fool.

And hey, I'm not related to you, but I think you have a great book in you too!

Hilary said...

Hi Andi,

Thanks for the compliment but I think I'll leave the books to the real writers (wave to Frank!). I sure am enjoying the camera though.

Hi Crabby,

Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your views. You're right about the pride that some people seem to feel in that regard. I guess it serves to reinforce their rationale that it's not wrong.

Althea said...

Reminds me of a few moments of my childhood...granted it wasn't long ago and for the most part, I don't see stuff like that any more. That is a good thing :)
Love the blog too :)

Hilary said...

Hi Althea,

I'm glad it's past tense for you... and yeah.. not long ago at all..you're a young'un despite that upcoming birthday you're whining about. ;)

I'm happy to see you drop by to comment. Thanks for that. :)

Anonymous said...

oh no, a woman with an opinion visiting my blog :-) I've read your log, you have an opinion, so have I :-) but to write it down in the right words and with nuances, that does not flow out of my pen in English, that takes a little more time than I have now. I'll try to be back ! The mahjong and the photo with the hats are great pictures !

Hilary said...

Thanks Hildegarde,

I hope everyone will stop by and visit your blog as I do regularly. Your photographs which are described in TWO languages are absolutely amazing! And that's not just an opinion.. it's a fact! :)


Tink said...

Because God forbid someone pushes curry on you. Geez. What is wrong with people?

Awesome pictures! The second and the last are my favorites.

Hilary said...


I guess there was a fair bit more implied than just the curry, but yeah, it was a head-scratcher.

Thanks for the kind words. I'm enjoying the photos and content on your blog as well. :)

Madeleine said...

Very nice photos!

Hilary said...

Thank you, decaf. Please come back soon. :)

Sweet and Salty said...

Great pics of kids playing in the splash pad, like mine do. Great minds think alike! (smile)

Hilary said...

Glad you found it Pavel. See you in the blogosphere. :)