In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the New Canadians Centre, we commissioned local artist Robert Boudreau to create a mural that depicts the New Canadians Centre’s mission of supporting, encouraging, and empowering immigrants and refugees over the past 40-years.
Delving deep into the archives of the New Canadians Centre and Peterborough’s history, Robert’s design represents a story of migration that reaches back not just 40 years but to the Indigenous origins of Nogojiwanonong.
The Mural was completed in Fall 2019 and now has a permanent home at the entrance of the New Canadians Centre, welcoming clients, staff, volunteers, and friends to the Centre.
We welcome visitors to take a look at the mural and find out more about the New Canadians Centre’s 40 years.
Scroll down to the end of this post to see the full design in detail.
About the Design
A traditional skill the Irish women emigrants brought with them is known as quilting. Irish quilts feature design blocks in a repeating pattern.
A quilt design, which references the Irish emigrants, was chosen as an organizing concept for 40 years of NCC photographic archives and history. The specific design motif in this “photo” quilt is known as a complex Irish chain. The bands of blue surrounding the “chains” represent the oceans, lakes and rivers, people had to navigate to reach the area. The blocks in the design are made up of the individual faces of newcomers and of the NCC staff who for the previous 40 years have assisted with resettlement. These faces represent a story of migration that reaches back not just 40 years but to the indigenous origins of Nogojiwanonong; that the photos are “linked” together speaks to the continuity of the migrant experience of all peoples.
Quilting played a cohesive social role for newcomer women. Women would get together to sew a quilt and exchange information. Quilts were given and received as gifts; to welcome the arrival of a new family, the birth of a child, a marriage, and anniversary, the construction of a home or barn. Quilts are symbolic of warmth, home, security, comfort, and welcome.
Though the reasons are complex, human migration is as ancient as humankind itself. With the rise of the modern nation-state and borders, migration became known as immigration. Nation-states have also defined a new type of human migrant known as the refugee.
Re-named the New Canadians Centre in 1986, the Peterborough Boat People Committee was established in 1979 to help resettle Vietnamese refugees.
This area was originally called Nogojiwanonong, Ojibwa for “place at the end of rapids”. The Odenabe River, which translated, means “river that beats like a heart”, was a gathering place for Indigenous peoples from across the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga. With this mural, we at the NCC greet and honour the original inhabitants of the land.
Peterborough has its origins rooted in and influenced by a history of migration.
In 1820, Adam Scott, Peterborough’s first permanent non-indigenous resident, built a sawmill and gristmill where Jackson Creek joins the Otonabee. The area was briefly known as Scott’s Plains. In 1825 in an effort by the British government to alleviate decades of poverty in Ireland, Peter Robinson brought 2100 emigrants to settle at Scott’s Plains, concentrating on those who could farm. In 1826, Scott’s Plains was renamed Peterborough.
By the end of 2018, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that economic disparity, war, violence, and persecution, resulted in 70.8 million people being displaced both internally and externally around the planet. 29.4 million were either refugees or asylum seekers. These numbers are unprecedented in history.
With globalization, population growth, economic disparity, climate change, and technological disruption increasingly making human work irrelevant, the number of displaced persons globally will continue to increase.
This story is part of the New Canadians Centre’s #WeBelong Campaign – Celebrating 40 Years of Inspiring and Encouraging Newcomers.
The #WeBelong Campaign shares powerful stories of Belonging, Home, Hope, and Community from our 40 Years. Follow along with the stories and opportunities on our page: www.nccpeterborough.ca/webelong