A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History

IMMIGRATION HISTORY


Dr. Wadell's homeland, Trinidad, is an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, with a population of 1.1 million people. It has at various times been an outpost for the Spanish, French, and English empires. Trinidad and Tobago (another small country/island next to Trinidad with a population of 50,000 people), have a complex mix of peoples from those former empires. Although there are still some people of white and mixed European race backgrounds in positions of power, most Trinidadians trace their ancestry to other groups.

African slaves were brought in to work the local sugar plantations, and their descendants are still in evidence today. In addition to the Africans who were brought there to work, Indian Hindus and Muslims, Chinese, and Portuguese were offered free passage to Trinidad in the 1840s in return for a fixed wage for a commitment of five years of work. This mixture of peoples has led to a rich cultural, racial and religious pluralism in Trinidad, which is often referred to in Canada as a prime role model for successful multiculturalism. However, at various times in its history, Trinidad has experienced occasional tensions between its two largest groups - those of African and of South Asian heritage - who when combined comprise almost evenly 80% of the population.

When Dr. Wadell came to Canada, there had only been a tiny trickle of Trinidadians who had already found their way here. The earliest Trinidadians recorded to come to Canada arrived in the 1920s, probably just years before Dr. Wadell. But unlike him, they came to work in the Nova Scotian shipyards or as porters, labourers, or chefs on Canada's various railway lines. After Dr. Wadell and his family settled in Halifax, there were few, if any fellow countrymen to follow for quite some time.

Before 1967 it was difficult for Trinidadians to enter Canada because of our rigid immigration laws. In the years between 1955 and 1965, for instance, just 100 Trinidadians entered Canada, and they came specifically to fill "domestic" positions. Another, albeit small group also came to Canada to study, enrolling at the University of Manitoba . However, most reportedly found Canada inhospitable and unfriendly (could the weather have played any part in this?) , and returned to Trinidad. Until 1965 only 3,000 had immigrated to Canada.

In the decades since the 1967 immigration rule changed, nearly 100,000 Trinidadians, from all racial backgrounds, have immigrated to Canada. Two-thirds have settled in Ontario, especially Toronto, Hamilton, and Windsor where there was factory work for them. Other Trinidadian communities also flourish in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.

In the last thirty years, most of the Trinidadians who came to Canada have been highly educated, but many have found it difficult to find employment in their areas of expertise. Racial discrimination undoubtedly has played a role in this, as well as their lack of 'Canadian work experience.' This refers to some employers who, because they did not want to hire immigrants or people of colour, required "Canadian work experience" as a job requirement. For a new immigrant, this is a hard request to fill!

One way to offset the settlement problems faced in Canada has been for Trinidadians to establish voluntary organizations, church groups, and service associations to help one another out. In particular, churches of Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, and Presbyterian denominations count many Trinidadians as participants, especially those of French and African heritage. Asian-Indian Trinidadians have created several Muslim mosques and Hindu mundirs to attend to their spiritual needs.


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