Considering our pasts as migrants

We are all migrants — whether we’ve changed countries, towns, even neighbourhoods or houses or jobs.

Dear Editor:

I am a migrant— and so are you.

We are all migrants — whether we’ve changed countries, towns, even neighbourhoods or houses or jobs. And we’ve migrated for the same reasons “those migrants” are migrating right now: finances, loss of home, war, to freely follow our beliefs, to escape violence, to share or convert others to our beliefs.

How has our migration affected the lives of those here first? Have we been good neighbours?

Did we take a job someone else in that community hoped to get?

How have our religion, traditions, beliefs and lifestyles affected our new community?

Have we reached out and really listened to their feelings about us and how our ideas and our lifestyle have affected them?

Have we had a negative effect on others, intended or not? Changed their economy and traditions? With our construction displaced local housing or made it unaffordable to many? Lived lifestyles in opposition to the original values of the community?

Associated only with those who “see things our way” and not been truly community-minded?

Forced community transformation to our ways we favour?

Tried to convert the original peoples to our politics, religion, economy, lifestyle–and pushed to the fringes those who don’t assimilate to our newcomer ways, or drove them out(or destroyed them)? Now seeing the results of our actions, what are we doing to make things right?

And do we now demand new migrants to also assimilate and become just like us? If we favoured our ways after we migrated, are not we ourselves guilty of what we fear from new migrants?

We have all been migrants. Can we ask of new migrants what we ourselves have been unwilling to do?

Were we willing to “assimilate completely” or else “go back where we came from”?

If not, how can we refuse to others the freedoms and life we expected when we migrated?

How were we received in our new country, town, neighbourhood, job? With open arms? Or not?

What kind of welcome did we hope for? Are we willing to extend that same welcome we dreamed of–or even demanded?

Do our attitudes and actions toward new migrants, and also to original inhabitants who ask us for fair treatment at last, match up to what we expected as migrants?

I am a migrant. And so are you.

Let’s think about that.

Norma Hill

Penticton