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Students get international focus


Six Don Ross French immersion students say they are now more community-minded and have made lasting friendships after travelling to Alberta for the second annual Youthlinks Summit.

The Historica Foundation of Canada brought together more than 70 high school students from across Canada for YouthLinks Summit at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta May 3 to 9. Led by expert panelists, students learned about the history and issues surrounding the Asia-Canada relationship. And Don Ross students Timmia St. Pierre Borchert, Jennifer Younger, Paige Sotham, Saren Smillie, Zed Dhalla and Sarah Grewal were stunned to see Squamish Nation hereditary chief Ian Campbell who led a drumming presentation on his role as Squamish Nation Chief.

"I could almost picture family and friends sitting around a glowing fire, sharing stories of their ancestors," said Younger.

The group also visited Lethbridge's Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, a symbol of friendship between Canada and Japan, and debated such questions as how do Canadians welcome new immigrants and how Canada has been transformed by its connections with Pacific nations.

Younger said she was most impressed by Joe Clark's presentation entitled "Considering the Wisdom and Diversity: what are my responsibilities and opportunities as both a Canadian citizen and as a global citizen."

"I left the hall knowing where I stand as a Canadian," she said. "It made me think of ways I could make a difference to my community, my country and those around me."

Another powerful speaker was Denise Chong, author of The Concubine Children, who spoke of her grandmother's experience being sold off as a concubine at the age of seventeen.

The six participating students agreed that the highlight of the trip was meeting other students from as far away as Whitehorse. Students were separated from their hometown group when assigned roommates, which went a long way to creating enduring friendships.

"It was great that they split us up to get us to intermingle," said Sotham.

"Everyone fit," added Smillie, "There were no cliques. It was very positive energy."

"After the second day, everyone were great friends," said St. Pierre Borchert. They were surprised to discover that all the teenagers had more similarities than differences, and that only one group was from a town larger than Squamish.

The students also had the opportunity to apply their ideas in a creative workshop environment working on animations, a video documentary, a newspaper, and a Summit 2005 YouthLinks online magazine. Several of the students' articles are available on the Youthlinks Summit website at

Immigrants: what would we do without them?

Editor's note: The following article was contributed by Howe Sound Secondary School's delegation to the Historica Foundation of Canada's second annual Youtlinks Summit at the University of Lethbridge, Alta. May 3-9, 2005: Jennifer Younger, Timmia St-Pierre Borchert, Paige Sotham, Saren Smillie, Zed Dhalla and Sarah Grewal.

Since this country was born, Canada has been a mainstay for Asian immigrants all around the world. Without these hard-working individuals, our country would not be as great, and diverse as it has become.

The first immigrants arrived from China to work on the railroad. These people were given the worst, and most dangerous jobs, meanwhile being treated with nothing but disrespect, and cruelty. However, they persevered through their hard work, and are now successful human beings whom are one of Canada's greatest assets. As years pass, more and more Asians immigrate to Canada, and we continue to develop into a more open-minded, and diverse country. Asian immigrants are a great part of Canadian history, as they have helped us develop into a multi-cultural country, and an extremely tolerant society.

Immigrants started coming to Canada from Asia around 1850, the majority of them being Chinese. Chinese men came for the gold rush in the Fraser River Valley, while others came directly from China to help build the B.C. section of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

In the meantime, the Chinese that worked on the railway were paid less than half of what white men were paid. At the same time, thousands of these dedicated human beings died. The difference in wages lasted all the way into the 20th century. Also, Chinese migrants worked as cooks and launderers. Furthermore, they toiled in fish canneries, and worked for wealthy white families. They often show up in early photographs - it was a status symbol to have a Chinese houseboy hovering at the edge of a family portrait. But in 1885, after the last spike was struck at the end of the CPR track, thousands of laborers were laid off. Soon after the railway work ended, many Chinese drifted eastward within Canada, and some even returned to China. Later that year, Canada imposed a head tax on Chinese seeking to enter the country. For this reason, Chinese immigrants had to work very hard to gain the respect of Canadian citizens.

Asian immigrants had a great influence on Canada from 1900-1950. The Asians came to Canada for a couple reasons. For one, they fled from poverty, war and natural disasters. In addition, their main goals were to have better conditions, prosperity and peace. Unfortunately, they did not get everything they expected. In fact, white people saw arriving workers as taking jobs from the working class, resulting in racism and prejudice against them. The government even imposed discriminatory taxes and laws against them. Likewise, they taxed Asian immigrants for boats, employment, schooling, and even their laundry and shoes. Also, there were many racist riots against them at that time. In some cases, their shops would be demolished. Most of them could not protest because they were isolated by language.

The two main reasons they were allowed in Canada were for their cheap labor, and skilled craftsmanship for factories. Some of them helped to modernize many aspects of our country such as technology, buildings, and industries. Many of them worked in mines, railroads, canneries and sawmills. Also, several Asian immigrants opened businesses such as hand-laundries to earn a living.

Soon after, the barriers of discrimination began to fall after Canadian citizenship was extended to eligible Chinese, and Indo-Canadians in 1947, and in 1948 to the Japanese. With citizenship came the right to work in professions such as law, engineering, pharmacy, and to hold public office. Nevertheless, they had hard-working, and intelligent personalities, which enabled our country to benefit in many different ways. Asian immigration to Canada has grown significantly over the past fifty years. Has this large percentage of Asian immigrants helped Canada evolve into the country it is today? Absolutely it has. Since 1962, when Canada ended its "whites only" immigration policy, this phenomenal country hasn't stopped improving. Centuries ago, we had to travel to distant lands by foot, canoe, and horseback to communicate, trade, work, and visit.

As you can see, Asian immigrants traveled, worked, and suffered to make this country the best it could be. As a result, we have luxuries such as air travel, the Internet, and something as simple as mail, which many of us blindly take for granted. Canada is far from perfect, yet we continue to grow into a more diverse, fair, and tolerant society. Today, we have World Fairs where people from across Canada come to express the issues and aspirations of their day, to exchange ideas, and to talk about how Canada evolved into this multicultural country. Asian immigrants have improved the past lives of Canadians, and today they continue to do the same.

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