Spirit Matters by Shirley Barr – The Value of Outsiders to a Community – August 5, 2012

CFN – I don’t like it when people from outside Cornwall, people like you, come here and try and change things. We were fine without you. Fact is, we don’t need all these foreigners coming here and taking what little jobs there are. Why don’t you leave?
Signed: Cornwall Classic

Spirit Matters Reply:

Hey Cornwall Classic,
Thanks for being so honest. It’s true that I come from somewhere else, have a job and am now making Cornwall my home. I can understand that you are fine without me. However when you make reference to foreigners, that is a different story. The reason I say that is that most of us, if we dig a little in our ancestry, come from somewhere else.


Dig a little deeper and you discover that we are, in fact, all related. Surprised? Well, then take a look at the latest discoveries in DNA, at a molecular level we share the same genetic material with very little in the way of differences. Our physical appearance is incredibly diverse but in our essence, we, the human race, are all one race. We live in different places, have different cultures, traditions and beliefs, but at the core we are the inhabitants of one planet. This is what is known as the principle of the oneness of the human race.

Now, some people may think that this is some “pie in the sky” kind of concept, or an ideology like communism, but I want to disabuse you of that notion. The principle of the oneness of the human race can be considered as the organizing principle for the time that we are in. Every age has its focus: in this day we need to become conscious that we live on one planet and that all of us human beings share the same air, sun, water and earth. Everything we do affects everything else.


Even though we live in Cornwall we do have people who have come here from all around the world and made this city their home. They are not foreigners – they are citizens, like you. They deserve your respect and courtesy, the same as the founders of this City. All citizens contribute, in one way or another, to their community.


In fact, when you come to think of it, even your ancestors were presumably “newcomers” to Cornwall themselves in their day. I offer you this song to help you reorganize your thinking:

Shirley Barr is a member of the Baha’i community and lives and works in Cornwall, Ontario. She can be reached by email at: spiritmatters9@gmail.com

Homestead Organics


  1. It almost seems that xenophobia (the irrational fear of people who are different) is still in the genes of most humans. I think it’s a throw-back to the time when people lived in warring tribes, when it was a survival mechanism. I read somewhere recently that every wave or group of immigrants that has come to North America, has wanted to slam the door on future immigrants. We still have a lot of evolving left to do.

  2. Great article and love the song!!!

    Yep, I am going back a few years but your article reminded of a song where the refrain went like this:

    Come on peple now, smile on your brother
    Everybody get together
    Try to love one another right now!!!!

    Are you all too young to remember the song?? **smile** Not sure who sang it…….but like your article…..the words are powerful and like Gary said, timely.

  3. Ms Barr… very interesting.. this past Sunday Aug 06 CBC radio had a report on the immigrant ‘enclaves” that evolve from different groups newly arrived in Canada.. Apparently there are over 240 such ‘enclaves” and most are in Toronto.. a sociologist on the program explained thar enclaves serve an important purpose for new immigrants . they can find their culture ,language,culinary tastes , costume and entertainment to be very soothing when they first arrive in Canada. the fear is that the Enclave could become a closed society and not allow the new arrivals to mix in with the rest of Canada and they sometimes limit themselves for fear of xenaphobia…or other cultural drawbacks… Canada was built by immigrants… from all parts of the world and we have the multicultural flavor that is better than anywhere else I say!!! @Stella that was one of my favorite songs too…..Guess we need a little 60`s in the present..;-)

  4. @ Stellabystarlight… THE Youngbloods… i googled it….great tune…listening to it right now …

  5. Also recorded by 3’s A Crowd in 1968 on their “CHRISTOPHER’S MOVIE MATINEE” album. Great album and a great song.

  6. @ all- Really appreciate your thoughtful comments and support.
    On a personal level the subject of immigration is close to my heart as my grand-daughter is the result of a marriage between my son who is of French and English Canadian background and my daughter in law whose birthplace is Sri Lanka. They met in Goose Bay, Labrador and have created a family which reflects unity in diversity. My granddaughter attracts so much attention because of her parents. It is still controversial to have a so-called mixed marriage, especially in a small community. I think we have alot of sorting out to do in terms of cultural practises and moving forward into a healthy world culture. That is why I said it’s not merely a nice thought to take on the principle of the oneness of the human race, it is a huge task that we have to each identify and work on in a daily, systematic way.

    @ Touchez! I heard the broadcast on immigrant enclaves. While it is worrying that people isolate themselves into a so-called enclave it is probably a reaction to the prevailing culture. I mean, in Canada we have a historically cordoned people off into enclaves and think this is normal. Witness what has happened with our First Nations, we put them onto reserves and still treat them as second class citizens where they are not protected under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and there are specialized departments to deal with issues, some of which do not seem to be very effective. Discrimination is the opposite of the principle of the oneness of the human race and discrimination is close to the starting point on the continuum of violence. I know these are strong words and am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  7. Ms Barr, further to your discussion..regarding reservations .. while the First Nations matters are fraught with legalities and sovereignty questions dated by the Indian Act… that is another issue. they are not immigrants or outsiders in my view..as cast but the report on CBC but i agree most wholey that changes need to become priority in the ways of government on both sides of that question.. we are all anchored in the same DNA…but our differences stem from pure survival skills..
    The Enclaves i speak of are most often formed by the very immigrant groups themselves as a foothold in the new world to them… it must be lkonely and frightening to come to any place where everything is alien….The Enclaves serve a purpose.. the sociologist i heard was attempting to explain how that purpose can overshadow the intent ….to make a new home in Canada and move freely about without fear of reprisals or misunderstandings of the human condition . fear is often the reason new immigrants come to Canada as refugees… it is a difficult sentiment to overcome ..what steps should Canada take to alleviate those fearful or cultural misunderstandings.. like everything else in human nature it will not be easy.. but new generations and the children of the “new Canadians” often serve as a bridge between the “old world” and the “new world.” education is the key I believe.. i enjoy your thought provoking columns and your`s is certainly that.. (not patronizing here, just fact)

  8. As an aside , Cornwall had a terrifc ‘immigration and new comers ” point of connection in the community.. it was situated on Water St in a lovely building and helped newcomers with any and all questions about life in Cornwall.. it had legal clinics and lifestyle information and nutrition ideas… it was closed down …. and eventually moved to the old school on Second street… the site is bigger and allows for english language learning and many other necessarry skills that newcomers need… valuable and I think an indication of what can be acheived when many sides work together…!!!

  9. @Touchez! Re: your point about many of the people living in enclaves having come to Canada as refugees and having thoughts of fear still affecting them. This is a very good point, I can see that fear would certainly lead people to stick together with others they feel more culturally familiar with. I feel that this probably is very normal, but is it a healthy thing to do? If you cannot challenge the culture you are born into then it is not a healthy culture. I know this is a strong statement and I stand by it. I have had many discussions with people who come from elsewhere and have mixed feelings about their culture because they prefer to have a more open minded approach to life and have the freedom to make their own decisions.

    For example, arranged marriages are part of many tribal cultures. In Canada that is not the way our culture is therefore now we have a sub-culture of arranged marriages, some of which do not have willing participants. This is one of the points of contention that we are going to have to work through as a society in order to advance into a world society. The freedom to choose our life partner is a basic human right.

  10. Ms Barr in response to your comment… absolutely true regarding the comment of one aspect of limiting cultural expectations among some newcomers .arraged marriages for example… Canada`s laws of personal freedom should be guiding force for all newcomers in a perfect world.. that is why education is the key .. when religion/ culture and state often clash.. education from both sides can be the open door.. often what is needed are liaisons between the newcomers and the Canadian way of life.. We`ve all heard of the tragic incidence of the Kingston drownings of the 3 ladies ..but we cannot assume that all followers of that sect are of the same mindset. humans are so complex in that respect.. I think Cornwall has done admirably in the “newcomers” arena.. but like all things in life we (collectively) are a product of our experiences…how we cope with the changes we make whether it be a new homeland or schooling is the outcome… that is never to say as Canadians we should give up our laws to cater to others… just make our laws more understood by education and clear communication….

  11. Ms Barr , I don`t mean to monopolize this discussion but i recently viewed an interesting documentary on docs channel. I was entitled “the man who would be King”… he is a Sudanese prince who moved his family of 6 children and wife to Canada to live safe healthy educated lives..After the passing of his father he was left the “kingdom” of 70,000 Sudanese in a war torn divided starving part of Africa.. he chose to return to Africa and lead his people to build a school and other basic human services like rudamentary primary healthcare, while his children and wife were left in Canada to the support of the small enclave here.. I hope you have a chance to see this documentary.. surprising and eyeopening…..!! it is not an easy world to understand

  12. Touchez….don’t worry about monopolizing the discussion……very intetresting indeed………keep it up ladies **s**

  13. Correction Ms Barr the title is ;”The man who became King” the story follows Adongo Agaba….docs one of the finest i`ve ever seen on the complications of immigration and personal choices…

  14. @ Touchez! Thanks for the info on the documentary, shall make a point of viewing it as soon as possible.

    Re: The Shafia murders, the root problem is a deeply rooted inequality attitude towards women and their worth which, at its absolute worst, manifests itself in this extreme violence. Can you imaging the level of control that was exercised on the women before they were killed? Their lives were unbearable. I shudder to think how foolish we are in our society to allow such attitudes to go unchallenged. We really need to wake up, and this horrible act of violence should have been our alarm.

Leave a Reply