The Immigration Story of Paul Hansen - (Danish immigrant) [RESTRICTED-Hard]

Category: 
Culture : 
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2014.310.1
Story Text: 

My parents immigrated to Canada from Europe when I was 10 years old. I did not want to leave! It was well within my ability to integrate into the Canadian public school system in Vancouver, but I resisted passively.

Attending Cecil Rhodes Elementary School in Vancouver was an extremely emotionally painful time for me, although that realization didn’t come until later in life. I was punched by a teacher’s closed fist from behind; my only guilt was existing. Being slapped in the face was a common occurrence, as were other forms of torture. Teachers constantly tried to humiliate me, but they never succeeded. When combined whit stories told to me by others, it’s fair to say that many teachers in those days had low self-esteem and were sadist. I suppose that these individuals should be pitied, but I’ve never forgiven any of them for the pain they tried to inflict, nor will I ever.

1956 was some 11 years after World War II. Displaced persons were still filtering into western countries. The world war had left up to 20 million people living in camps throughout Europe.

Based on the treatment that I received, I’d have to say that these unfortunate individuals were not well- liked by a number of Canadians. My family weren’t displaced, not that there’s any shame in that as we’re all humans sharing one planet. The little people do not start military conflicts; they are pawns in armies used to kill imaginary enemies. Of course when there are two or more sides and one is inherently evil, there’s only one recourse and that is to fight.

Propaganda is a powerful tool capable of mobilizing armies to fight for god and/or country. It is indeed and unfortunate situation when evil leaders launch attacks against ways of life that treasure freedom, putting these individuals in position to fight or lose what they treasure.

Being called a DP (Displaced Person) was a daily occurrence that you had to accept. What do you do? I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I didn’t have friends, because I did. Life was not all bad! Being tall for my age, and blond with blue eyes, made me attractive to the opposite sex.
Strength also gave me peace. I was a good fighter, fearless, and never thought twice about defending myself. There were too many fights, sometimes involving up to three individuals at the same time.

I suppose that some of the teachers at Cecil Rhodes Elementary School in Vancouver had lost loved ones, friends or relatives during the war and needed a scapegoat. Perhaps there was a need for them to elevate themselves or they were mentally disturbed. Who knows? There is, however, no excuse for their actions. I’m not certain, but it’s a reasonable assumption that events like that occurred in every Canadian elementary school. Whatever the sins of the father, the children should not be blamed, and in any event being displaced in not a sin. I do think that I and others like me deserve compensation for the pain and suffering that was inflicted by teachers that we incurred while attending those institutions. I would donate my portion to charity; I’m not seeking monetary gain.

My friends were my strength, plus the fact that I didn’t give a damn at the time. Some of the staff at the school were the ones that had the problems.
There’s a lot of talk these days about bullying leading to suicide. I wonder how much blood these teachers have on their hands?

I guess that others and I only received a small dose of what pain was inflicted to natives by the civilized white immigrants when they arrived to make Indian ancestral land their own. I imagine that land to Indians was land to be used for hunting and fishing. The concept of surveyed land and title deeds was unheard of. It was nonexistent in their culture. They lived in geographic areas and that’s the way it was.

When everything is said and done, I should perhaps consider myself lucky that I didn’t attend Indian boarding schools. Missionaries that were doing God’s work ran most of these schools. Natives were stripped of their Indian-ness. Their Christian masters forced the students to abandon their native languages and customs. There were countless cases of sexual, physical, and mental abuse. I don’t have the statistics for the suicide rates in these institutions, but there were of course higher than normal.