Bob Groeneveld has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with Langley readers since before the Blair Recreation Centre was built.

Bob Groeneveld has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with Langley readers since before the Blair Recreation Centre was built.

Odd Thoughts: Big Bear delivers better future

Tens of thousands of Canadians arrived by boat in the 1950s, escaping the devastation of war

By Bob Groeneveld

.

On a whim, I typed a name into my internet browser, and the result sent a shiver through me.

It was a shiver of delight, of discovery.

It wasn’t nostalgia. I had no actual memory to make a sentimental association.

But it was something very much like it.

The name I typed into Google was not that of a person, but of a boat. A ship, actually.

It was the SS Groote Beer, and instantly, I was looking at a picture of that magnificent vessel.

Now, before the wise-acres get started: no, it has nothing to do with alcohol. “Groote” is Dutch for big, and “Beer” translates to bear.

It was the ship that took me – and tens of thousands of others through the 1950s – from The Netherlands, a country impoverished by German occupiers during the Second World War, to Canada, a vast expanse of opportunity.

I have no memory of the trip aboard the SS Groote Beer, the landing in Halifax, or the train ride across vast expanses that astounded my parents and older siblings. I’ve been told the stories, but I wasn’t born until a few months after our family got to Vancouver Island and took up residence in their first Canadian home – a converted chicken coop.

That’s right. That was my first home after I was born in West Coast General Hospital: a renovated chicken coop.

My parents took advantage of a post-war settlement agreement between Canada and the Netherlands. Holland had too many people at the time, and Canada, then as now, had room for more.

Like so many emigrants from so many countries who crossed their fingers, packed up their kist (look it up) and kids, and stepped out beyond their horizon, my parents started over in a story-book country, with a culture they didn’t know and a language they didn’t understand.

Their most valuable possession was the dream they shared for their children.

I’ve seen pictures of that first home in the Alberni Valley. It wasn’t much. But it was everything.

It was the beginning of everything that every one of us kids has now.

The thousands of miles that the SS Groote Beer took our immigrant families, and the thousands more we all travelled by train, were inches compared to the vast distances we’ve travelled to become who we are today.

Just as it embarrasses me when I see the way we treat those who were here before us, I am also shamed when I hear us talk about denying tomorrow’s Canadians the journey that we took – that we were given the opportunity to take – when we stepped out into a better future.

We’ve been slamming the door on our indigenous people while feasting on the opportunities that their land has provided us, and with equal arrogance, many of us want to hold closed the door that would give others the very opportunities that brought us here.

We aren’t just Canadians.

We are Canada.

#####

In a past life, Bob Groeneveld was editor of the Langley Advance and the Maple Ridge Times. Now he writes when and what he feels like. He has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with readers for more than 40 years. Visit with him on Facebook.

All of us.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The RCMP was called to a condo complex in Langley City in the early hours of Jan. 18, 2021, for a shooting. (Shane Mackichan/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Violence hits Langley as gang war boils over in Lower Mainland

Three violent local incidents haven’t been definitively linked to gangs, but are apparently targeted

Langley Advance Times publisher Lisa Farquharson and Real Canadian Superstore Langley manager Jason Pietzarka presented Kristi Kocherkewych with her $200 prize in the third annual Win Everything You Didn’t Get for Christmas Contest. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Walnut Grove woman spreads cheer as winner of Langley Advance Times and Superstore contest

The third annual Win Everything You Didn’t Get for Christmas Contest received thousands of entries

Township of Langley crews were called to a structure fire in the 7200blk 208th St in Willoughby on Friday, Jan. 22, 2020 (Curtis Kreklau/South Fraser News Services)
VIDEO: Two-alarm blaze in Langley’s Willoughby neighbourhood

Crews respond to multiple reports of a structure fire in the 7200 block of 208th Street on Friday

Black Press Media Files
BC Teacher’s Federation asks for vaccine prioritization

‘Hopefully more vaccines are approved and the immunization strategy will be adjusted and accelerated’

Sources White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank is located at 2356 156 St. (File photo)
Door-to-door canvassers not working on behalf of Sources Food Bank, says manager

Accredited White Rock, South Surrey, Langley food bank does not canvas for donations

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Most Read