Perseverance of immigrants in the 1970s

What a lot of people don’t understand about immigrants of the 1970s is that they assimilated to Canadian culture. My father moved to Canada in the early to mid-70s and my friend’s parents moved from Portugal around that time as well. In fact, I went to high school with first-generation Canadians whose parents came from all over the planet: India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Africa, the list goes on.

If you speak to immigrants from that era you will understand that life wasn’t easy, but they persevered through grit, hard work and determination.

My father often talks about the racism he received upon arriving here, and you can tell, when he discusses it, that it still bothers him.

The reason is because the message upon his arrival was clear: he was beneath WASPs who value genetics, breeding, education, as they see fit. But that’s a story for another time. The point is that immigrants who arrived to Canada were met with derision.

My parents and friend’s parents are hostile to any new immigrants who tap into the ‘system’ for help. I am not saying I agree with them, I’m merely relaying a truth.

Many immigrants from their era had a lot of pride. Let me explain: during the pandemic my father was forced to close his barber shop for the first time in 45 years. Many of you reading this cannot appreciate these types of achievements. A young man, from a foreign country, moves to Canada for more opportunities, puts all his savings, energy into a small business, only to be told after 45 years, that he has to close his doors. For people like my dad, this is not an easy thing to do. They are not used to being idle. They don’t know the meaning of the word.

A proud man, my dad would not have applied for EI or CRB during that time, because he believes that when he’s down, he gets back up and fights. This is not the same mindset as many others who attempted to double dip into our social services nets, only to be caught, and then mandated to pay back the stolen money.

Some of you reading this do not understand what EI or CRB refers to so allow me to explain. In Canada, we all pay into employment insurance. If we happen to lose our jobs, through no fault of our own, we can collect that insurance until we find employment elsewhere. During the pandemic, Canadians who were forced out of work due to lockdown were able to collect $2,000 a month from the government.

In Ontario, those who can’t work due to disability collect what is called ODSP, which stands for Ontario Disability Support Program. Many of those who collect ODSP, also attempted to collect CRB, which would have seen their monthly income double, meaning they were bringing in $4,000 a month. From doing nothing.

The issue now is that people don’t want to go back to work, because they are earning an income without having to actually earn it. So the government cut them off from this assistance. This is why you’ll hear a lot of Canadians who were earning CRB, shamelessly hoping for another lockdown. Many of these people fall on the left of the political spectrum, who do not have the work ethic of people like my dad and who claim oppression when they don’t get what they want.

You can see here the faults of socialism. When you simply get something from doing nothing there is no incentive to ever do anything.

For immigrants of my father’s generation, who met similar circumstances, they found other ways to earn an income. Their belief, whether you agree with it or not, is that no one helped them when they came to Canada, everything they achieved they did on their own.

They are proud of those achievements, and annoyed by those who can’t do what they did. And let me explain that what they did was pretty extraordinary. Think about moving to Canada, from a poor country, without a formal education, having to learn a new language, having to find work, having to raise a family, having to buy a house, having to survive. Having to do all of this without ever wallowing in self-pity, without ever taking the time to ask themselves if they were happy. They knew true compromise and sacrifice.

They succeeded in spite of all the odds. And then they observe as people with nothing but means, mobility, ability, sit on their asses and do fuck all while collecting a government pay check.

I can understand their frustration to a degree. For them, to do such a thing, is shameful. It’s unfortunate to me, as an outsider, who learned from my dad’s work ethic, to see so many milk a system that was designed to help the most vulnerable among us.

What we have now is a generation of adult-babies. Most people don’t want to work for anything anymore. They believe they should get what they want when they want it without any challenge. And if they don’t get what they want when they want it they consider that oppression. It’s beyond my understanding and I’m often left shaking my head.

Immigrants of my father’s generation demonstrated how wonderful a capitalist country like Canada is. You can arrive here, and through hard work, achieve anything you want to. My dad has never received a single penny from the government, and never will. He made sure of it.

What floors me is how so many believe this is impossible now, that the ‘system’ is out to ‘get them’. There are challenges that is for sure, I’m not saying there aren’t hurdles that people need to overcome, but they shouldn’t be excuses for not trying. The truth is, believing you can’t do something is a mindset. It’s your own personal issue, you’re restricting and limiting yourself by believing this.

Anything worth a damn comes from hard work, from sweat. The immigrants to Canada in the 1970s understood this.

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