Anytime a project encourages young people to read more is a good thing.
With the ability to read one has the opportunity to explore ideas and gather facts which lead to knowledge so one can make informed decisions on everything from what dish soap to use, to which career to aspire too, to which political candidate to trust and vote for.
So when St. Paul’s School launched its 10th annual ‘One School, One Book’ Family Reading Program last week it was a good thing for students at the school, and their families.
The better news was that this year the program was expanded to encompass students at Dr. Brass, St. Alphonsus, St. Michael’s and Yorkdale Central School. In total 660 books are being distributed. That’s a lot of young people in our city being encouraged to sit down this month and read with their families.
That St. Paul’s School chose Wishtree by Katherine Applegate as the book for students to read this year also needs to be commended.
The book uses the perspective of a tree in a city neighbourhood to look at the impact of racism on a community. While there is not room here to go into the details of how Applegate negotiates the ‘hot button’ issue, the key for our community is by reading Wishtree students and their families will have a starting point of sorts to talk about racism, what it is, why it must not be tolerated, and how we can deal with the issue when it rears its ugly head.
And that ugly head is poking out of the shadows right now. There are people protesting immigration, and fearing the thoughts and ideas which come with each new Canadian.
Certainly there are people we don’t want allowed into our country, criminals, and terrorists topping the list. But those are individuals. They are singular people, not entire ethnic or religious groups, and if any country in the world should understand that it is here in Canada where we are all descended from someone who came to this land from somewhere else. Even our First Nations, who have lived here by far the longest, are suggested to have arrived across the Bering Strait thousands of years ago.
And in Canada we have learned by experience the hardship caused by establishing policies based on race.
There is the blemish on our history of the Ukrainian Canadian internment which was part of the confinement of enemy aliens in Canada during and for two years after the end of the First World War, lasting from 1914 to 1920, under the terms of the War Measures Act. About 4,000 Ukrainian men and some women and children of Austro-Hungarian citizenship were kept in twenty-four internment camps and related work sites – also known, at the time, as concentration camps.
We didn’t learn from that and in 1942, Japanese Canadian Internment occurred when more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians from British Columbia were evacuated and interned in the name of ‘national security’. This forced relocation subjected many Japanese Canadians to government-enforced curfews and interrogations, job and property losses, and forced repatriation to Japan.
“Beginning after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and lasting until 1949, Japanese Canadians were stripped of their homes and businesses and sent to internment camps and farms in the B.C. interior and across Canada.
The internment and relocation program was funded in part by the sale of property belonging to this forcefully displaced population, which included fishing boats, motor vehicles, houses, and personal belongings,” details Wikipedia.
These are blemishes on our history which should have taught us not to treat everyone of a specific nationality as being the same.
The simple truth there are good and bad individuals across all races and all religions.
But because there are bad people does not mean we as Canadians should turn away from immigrants seeking a better future for that is a shared experience for each of us. We can all look back and point to someone in our family who arrived in Canada seeking the exact same thing, a better life.
Hopefully the young readers across our city will continue to read and explore and understand immigration is at the heart of our country, and come to understand we are a stronger nation by our diversity.