HAMIL­TON’S LONG HIS­TORY OF WEL­COM­ING IM­MI­GRANTS AND REFUGEES

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - HAMIL­TON HAS LONG BEEN

one of Canada’s top des­ti­na­tions for peo­ple com­ing from some­where else — by their own choice as im­mi­grants, or out of ne­ces­sity as refugees.

Nearly half of Hamil­ton res­i­dents 65 years of age and older were born out­side Canada, a tes­ta­ment to the city’s legacy as a ma­jor in­dus­trial em­ployer dur­ing the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Dur­ing the 1800s, im­mi­grants to Hamil­ton came pre­dom­i­nantly from Ire­land, Scot­land and Eng­land.

The over­whelm­ing num­bers of refugees now pass­ing through Buf­falo’s Vive cen­tre to Canada has been likened to a mod­ern-day Un­der­ground Rail­road.

Back in the mid-1800s, Hamil­ton was an im­por­tant stop on the orig­i­nal Un­der­ground Rail­road for blacks es­cap­ing from slav­ery in the United States.

Hun­dreds of black peo­ple set­tled in Hamil­ton dur­ing that time, in­clud­ing a thriv­ing com­mu­nity on Con­ces­sion Street on the Moun­tain that was dubbed Lit­tle Africa.

In the early part of the 20th cen­tury, the main sources of im­mi­grants were Italy, Poland and Hun­gary.

Af­ter the end of the Sec­ond World War, there was a mas­sive in­flux of im­mi­grants from Italy and Por­tu­gal.

In the past half cen­tury, refugees have been a large pro­por­tion of the city’s new­com­ers.

One study showed that as much as one-third of all Hamil­ton res­i­dents born out­side the coun­try en­tered Canada as refugees, the high­est such pro­por­tion in Canada.

Dur­ing the 1970s, the prin­ci­pal source of refugees was Viet­nam. More re­cently, Hamil­ton’s refugees have come from Myan­mar, So­ma­lia, Kosovo, Colom­bia, Iraq, Hon­duras, El Sal­vador and Afghanistan.

From late 2015 to early 2017, Hamil­ton also be­came home for nearly 1,500 refugees from Syria.

In the mid-1800s, Hamil­ton was an im­por­tant stop on the orig­i­nal Un­der­ground Rail­road.

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