We are Hyphenated Canadians

How does it feel to be an immigrant in Canada? What is common to all of us? How do we integrate well yet still remain connected to our heritage?

I meet, talk with, and photograph immigrants, each with a unique personal history and stories. Especially those who are connected to the arts - a natural fountain of ideas and insights. 

Regardless of our diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, what binds us together is a single hyphen, a dash in the middle between where we came from, and where we landed:

African-Canadians, Italian-Canadians, Irish-Canadians, or whatever country we came from we are Hyphenated Canadians. This is the story of millions of immigrants from all over the world. But here it has a unique flavour, a Canadian way for dealing with immigrants that is proving to be a growing exception. With the noted exception of native Canadians, or First Nations, who lived here for millennia, most other Canadians arrived relatively recently. This nation has a special attitude to immigrants, reflected when newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warmly welcomed immigrants from Syria.

Some may see us as "boring", but I see us as sane.

I immigrated to Canada just over 30 years ago, a young Israeli looking for a change, escaping the politics and mayhem of the middle east. Now in my middle years, I reflect back on a decision made out of intuition thankful for the choice I made.

I have had many casual conversations with other immigrants over the years. Many of us have a special appreciation for the city and country in which we now live. I wanted to tell this story as best I can. So choosing artists or people involved in the arts, I use portraits, video, and interviews to capture the profiles of immigrants and first generation Canadians.

This series is proving to be a very rewarding journey. Through this discovery of human nature, learning the stories and insights of people young and old, I have proof that no matter our backgrounds, ethnic or religion differences, there is so much that ties us together.

Please come back and visit as I add more impressions from my encounters. If you know of someone who is an immigrant or first-generation Canadian who is involved with the arts, please ask them to contact me here.

--Shy Alter. 2016.