What is your immigration story?

By: Lindee Gallant

I am so proud of my Dutch heritage. I love the food, the accent of my tiny grandmother, and did I mention the food? I could die happy with a never ending loaf of sprinkle sandwiches and spekulaas.

My maternal grandparents moved to PEI in 1955, arriving via ship at Peir 21 in Halifax with their suitcases, a few siblings, and their aging parents. After WWII, there was no land for their generation to farm, and there was little opportunity in Ooverloon or Westerrbeek. So my 29 year old grandmother married my 35 year old grandfather after they were set up by a priest, and set their sights across the Atlantic.

When they arrived, they faced the same hardships any newcomer faces when starting over in a strange country. They didn’t speak the language, didn’t know about the winters in PEI, and didn’t have indoor plumbing.

They worked for a farmer for a few years before settling in Cardigan and opening up a feed mill alongside the river. The feed mill burnt down twice, they had 11 children, they lost a baby, they hosted picnics, they got indoor plumbing, they painted their house pink, they had successes and failures.

When my mom went to school in grade one, her name was Mareike and she didn’t speak English. She followed one of her cousins to the boys toilet. Her teacher couldn’t say Mareike, so she told her that her name was Mary, and since then, my mother has been Mary. Someone told her to go back to where she came from.

They raised their ten children in Cardigan and never left. My grandfather is buried in Cardigan, and my Grandmother still lives there.

If you read the poster, you’ll see that we have a 114 member family now, and annually we add $1.64 million dollars, minimum, to the economy.

Every single person who decides to land on our island matters greatly. Immigration keeps our schools open, our communities vibrant. We want their children to be our pharmacists, our doctors, our farmers, bus drivers, teachers, welders, and community navigators. If someone makes the effort to come to rural Eastern PEI, we want to help them figure out how to stay here.

We do this by building community. Offering support, friendship, kinship. We do it together.