At the turn of the last century, the Boyle Street neighbourhood was considered downtown. There were hotels and manufacturing plants here. And, in those days, people needed to live close to where they worked, so many houses were built and rented out to the factory workers.
For the first decade that my house stood here, it was rented out to different people almost yearly. In those days Boyle Street was a landing place for immigrants. The neighbourhood has not changed much in these ways. We are still an area consisting mainly of renters, and we host many immigrants.
However, whereas at one time people came here to live close to work, now they may live here so as to be close to their place of worship. At the turn of the century there was an influx of Eastern European Jews fleeing religious persecution. There were also numerous Chinese immigrants who came here for the gold rush. These days, many of my neighbours are from Africa and the Middle East, having chosen to live close to the Mosque. In these difficult times when multitudes of immigrants to the United States have been made to feel unsafe, I hope that people in Boyle Street go out of their way to make our immigrants feel welcome.
Whether people come here to enjoy the safety of Canadian society or for a chance to get ahead in life, being in a new culture that they might not fully understand has to be unsettling. We need to do our best to make the transition as smooth as possible. We should strive to understand that there might be aspects of their cultures that could seem strange or even off-putting to us, as I’ve heard some people express. These variations are not a reflection of the individual but of the society in which they were raised. Societal standards vary, and we cannot judge those of a different culture by our own standards – especially when newcomers have no way of knowing what those standards are. People from different cultures have every right to live according to what habits they were raised with and what is comfortable for them.
We are undoubtedly blessed to live in a country where tolerance is the accepted norm. I don’t know if this is the atmosphere that prevailed in Boyle Street at the turn of the last century, but I certainly hope that it’s the way of the present time.
Manon is a resident of Boyle Street and an active volunteer in the community. This column contains her own opinions, and is not affiliated with the Boyle Street Community League.