By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the LaSalle Post on July 28, 2017.
Photo: The Thomas clan is, standing from left Max Ferrar, Bonnie Thomas, Kendra Aubry, Valerie Thomas, Karen Vallee, Patty Monteiro, Yvonn Monteiro, Lorraine Aubry, John Aubry, Christopher Thomas, Trevor Thomas, Margaret Thomas, Michael Thomas, Elizabeth Thomas, Jaime Thomas, Hayley Thomas, Gavin Liddle, Elizabeth Thomas, and Terrance Thomas. Seated in the centre is Edwin Thomas. In front is, from left, Corbin Thomas, Brady Thomas, Kaleb Thomas, Avery Vallee, Serena Salvosa, Paisley Thomas, Sophia Salvosa, and Brendan Vallee. DEVAN MIGHTON / LASALLE POST
(LASALLE, ON) – Thomas family members from across Ontario gathered at the Riverdance Community Centre on LaSalle’s riverfront to celebrate a milestone.
In 1967, Edwin and Iris Thomas and their three kids emigrated from India to Ontario to start life anew.
Of Anglo-Indian mixed descent, the Thomas family were coming from a country that was in transition.
Having gained independence from Great Britain in 1950 and splitting with Pakistan, the new republic was an ever-changing place.
“My dad was very certain that he wanted to immigrate and considered England, Australia, and Canada,” said Lorraine Aubry, the eldest Thomas child.
“He eliminated England as it was being flooded with immigrants and he thought our opportunities there would be limited.
“He picked Canada over Australia because its immigration policies seemed more inclusive.
“Also, Canada needed registered nurses and as a registered nurse, my mother was able to get a job offer which made the immigration process smoother.”
With ten-year-old Lorraine, Trevor (9), and Lloyd (7), the Thomas’ borrowed a large sum of money for plane tickets, and with only $10 to their name, they moved to Kingston in the year of Canada’s centennial celebration.
“My mother was a registered nurse and since Canada was in need of nurses in 1967, she had job offers from several hospitals across Canada,” she explained.
“My parents did not know which province or city they would like to settle in. They chose Kingston as the Kingston General Hospital offered one more week of vacation than any of the other hospitals.”
When the Thomas family arrived in Kingston, they had no place to call home.
“Fortunately, the hospital arranged for us to stay at the vacant nurses’ residence for the summer and we were helped by some Indian nurses who also worked at the hospital and who we met for the first time after our arrival,” she recalled.
“We eventually moved into student housing as a family of five as that was the only type of accommodation that we could afford that was fully furnished.”
At first, the Thomas’ were strangers in a strange land.
“We had no friends or family members to teach us ‘the ropes’,” remembered Lorraine. “It was a lonely first Christmas – especially for my parents, who had left large families behind in India.”
Lorraine’s father came from a family of 10 children and her mother, seven.
“We adjusted to life in Canada very quickly and as kids loved our first snowfall and the luxury of having electrical appliances such as a fridge and stove in our home as well as a telephone,” she said. “We were very excited when our family was able to purchase a modest used car after about a year in the country.”
Photo: Four generations of the Thomas family – From left, Terrance holding his son Bentley, his daughter Paisley, Edwin, and Trevor. DEVAN MIGHTON / LASALLE POST
Two years later, the Thomas’ moved to Windsor.
“My dad was offered a job in his field of instrument mechanics at Hiram Walker and Sons in the summer of 1969,” she said.
With the move, the family had even more good news when their youngest sister, Karen, was born.
Fifty years after the move, now celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial, the Thomas’ are still going strong.
With his family spanning four generations, Edwin is enjoying the bliss of not just children and grandchildren, but great-grandchildren as well.
“The special feeling is that we have been able to celebrate family milestones along with big celebrations for the country,” said Lorraine. “First, with the good fortune of immigration during the centennial year, especially since not everyone who wants to immigrate is allowed into the country, and second, to have the good fortune to celebrate 50 years of freedom and opportunity when Canada is celebrating its sesquicentennial is also very special.”
“To me, being Canadian means having freedom and opportunity,” she continued. “Specifically, I am proud to be the citizen of a country that affords its citizens religious, political, and cultural freedom.
“No matter where I travel, I have never been even slightly tempted to call another country home. I am always happy to come home to Canada.”