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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Opinion: Overtourism or under welcome?

Ross Robinson

Special to The Lake Report

“Can’t we all just love each other?”  These words were yelled from the Blue Team bench while a rare fight raged on during a Wallbangers hockey game last year. Early on a Sunday morning. No referees in sight.

Seems like a long time ago, pre-COVID-19.  

We must all work together to ensure the safest environment possible during the current global pandemic.  Many of us (me included?) are apparently elderly, so all practical safely protocols must be followed.

For the past few months, I have been disheartened by the negative, somewhat mean mood around our wonderful town where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. So many red diagonal lines through red circles.  No Entry, No This, No That. And now, in our lovely parks, No BBQ and No Tents.  This is all getting a bit too intense for me.

What a heartwarming sight last weekend in Ryerson Park, to see 13 members of a Toronto family, spending most of the day enjoying the beauty, the water, the quiet and the sun. The peace. Children, parents and grandparents. They had immigrated to Canada from Iraq, to seek a better life. Just like my ancestors, and perhaps yours.  

They don’t have a cottage north of Toronto, so they planned a weekend trip to Niagara, highlighted by their day in our neighbourhood jewel. There were 13 of them, so they were discreetly breaking the rule of gatherings of a maximum in tens. (Yes, a bit awkward. Get it?)

I spoke to the parents, Mostafa and Aliya. They offered me some of their delicious barbecue chicken. My heart was so full of happiness and they agreed to stay for what turned out to be a fabulous sunset. Their two youngest children had sheltered from the sun in a 6-by-6-foot tent, and slept soundly for several hours before departing for the big city. Plenty of naps in the tent during the day for these fine, hardworking new Canadians. How canajan, eh?

The kids with Nike swoosh running shoes and the ladies in brightly coloured hijabs. I love my country. Some of the men swimming.

A short distance away was a group of picnicking Sikhs in brightly coloured turbans and saris. Next to them about a dozen Canadians from Cameroon, with their barbecue cooking a great picnic dinner. Two of their kids were wearing Toronto Raptors basketball singlets, both with the name Siakam on the back.  Pascal, what a great player and personality.  What a world champion.  We The North and all that.

Then, about a dozen folks from Mississauga, originally from Iran. They were enjoying a very elaborate hookah pipe, a water pipe that seemed to give them peace and happiness.

Let’s all love each other. Surely there is a way. It distresses me to hear that a few of the most welcoming Canadians, down east in Newfoundland and Cape Breton, are marking cars that bear licensce plates from outside of their Maritime “bubble.” Please…

Let us all pause, and take a look in the mirror. Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world. We somehow get along with each other. There is lots of room for everyone. Be welcoming. Say hello.

As my mom often said, “Laughter has no foreign accent.”