A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES, COMING TO CANADA

The second wave of Haitian immigrants were not received as warmly as their predecessors. They were mostly working class and perceived as a threat -- an invasion of cheap workers who would steal jobs away from Québeckers.(7)

Karl Lévêque worried about these new Haitian immigrants. Many were clustering into the taxi business, and there were many negative reactions, both publicly and privately. Some Québeckers were singling them out, accusing the Haitians of taking good jobs. Tensions were mounting, the presence of the Haitian community sparked hatred and racism as they tried to integrate into society.

Haitians were frequently denied apartments advertised for rent, being told that "it was just rented." Shortly after the same apartment was rented to the first white person who requested it.(8) Haitians' telephone lines were sometimes cut off because the previous Haitian tenant had left bills unpaid. The assumption was that all Haitians were incapable or unwilling to pay their bills.(9)

There were documented instances of police brutality; Haitians were verbally assaulted and physically dragged down to the police station and put behind bars for hours without being allowed their legal right to one phone call. In court Haitians were told by judges, before hearing the case or a word of testimony, that they would not believe a word that they said.(10)

Karl Lévêque became a militant who worked to bridge the differences of cultures and ease the transitions. He was the protector of his people. And despite the racist incidents, the Haitian community was able to adapt reasonably well, with the help of the church and the supports it set up.

Lévêque was among those who started the Haitian Christian Community Centre in 1972. It was designed to help with problems the Haitian community was experiencing in integrating, and in sorting out their immigration status. Many had come to Canada only with tourist visas and had to obtain permanent residency or face deportation. The Centre provided a resource and comfort in settling in, a place where the old world could meet the new.

Footnotes:
1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10
The Haitians in Quebec, A Sociological Profile, by Paul Dejean
(Tecumseh Press, Ottawa, 1980).

4
The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland and Stewart, 1998).


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