“This country is my home, I’ll never go back.”

SADAM AHMED – Somalian refugee

Saddam Ahmed fled Somalia in 1990 because of the fighting there and lived in Ethiopia until he was sponsored to come to Canada by his cousin in 2004. Ahmed owns a Halal meat and clothing store that caters to Muslims living in Brooks. When he is first interviewed he says business is good and the Muslim community in Brooks is happy that he sells the food and clothing that they need. After nine months Ahmed closes his store because of lack of sales. He says Lakeside is not hiring new employees or giving workers overtime so they don’t have enough money to spend at his store.

“I chose [John Ware] because he was outstanding in my selection as a model citizen at that time.”

HARRY BURK – German immigrant

Harry Burk bought a farm in Brooks in 1970 after moving to Canada from Germany. In his seventies, he has become an artist and creates sculptures depicting Brooks’ past. One of his first sculptures was of John Ware, the famous black cowboy who was a former slave from the United States who came to the Brooks area in 1900. Burk says he chose to create a statute about John Ware because “it gives the black African community something to look forward to–to have a model citizen here.”

“Not everyone is comfortable with having young black people, young Asian people, young Chinese people come and live next door to them.”

INGE ELLEFSON – Danish immigrant

Inge Ellefson moved to Brooks as a little girl with her parents from Denmark in the 1950s. She says she feels displaced because she immigrated to Brooks and wonders what her life would have been like if she had stayed in Denmark. “What would have happened in terms of marriage and family and career and life long ambitions?” wonders Ellefson. Ellefson says she is wary of some of the new immigrants. “I welcome them, but yet I have a bit of a caution against bringing things to a community where I live where I really want to feel safe,” explains Ellefson. “I want to feel really proud of what we have, and not be concerned about drugs and alcohol, and street brawls, and murders and things along that line.”

“They were like ‘why is this black man saying hi?'”

JONATHAN GASIRABO – Rwandan

Jonathan Gasirabo is from Rwanda. His parents decided it would be safer if they moved to Canada and originally settled in Montreal, Quebec. Gasirabo moved to Brooks with his father three years ago. In the film he lives with his friend Joey Hutter and his parents. The Hutters are long time white residents of Brooks. Gasirabo’s story is one of integration. Jonathan says the Hutters understand that “he’s going through tough times” and have helped him. He says he is so grateful and doesn’t “feel out of place at all.”

“I came here for the money, to be rich.”

“We feel lonely, very lonely…. It’s always boring here. We have nothing to do…only the supermarket, the discotheque and bar.”

CHRISEN GOPALL – Mauritian temporary foreign worker (left)

Chrisen moved to Brooks from Mauritius with his friend Mootoo Sunnassee. The two men live and work together. Gopall misses his family and lifestyle in Mauritius. He has come to Brooks to make money and become rich. He plans to work at the meat packing plant for ten years and then move back to Mauritius
and retire.

MOOTOO SUNNASSEE – Mauritian temporary foreign worker (right)

Sunnassee is very homesick for his wife and two young children. He hopes to gain his permanent residence papers in Canada and once they are approved he will sponsor his family to come to live in Canada. He is very bored in Brooks and says there’s nothing to do. He does enjoy watching the cowboys in real life in the summertime in Brooks however.

“You’ll still always be a prairie person”

SANDRA HAJASH – Owner of the Duke of Sutherland House

Sandra Hajash’s family immigrated to Brooks from Hungary in 1935. She now lives in the Duke of Sutherland House and has opened it up to the public for the centennial celebrations. Hajash loves living in Brooks. “There’s openness to the prairie,” explains Hajash. “It becomes a part of you, and I don’t think if you ever move away you lose that. You might move away and you might like it, but you’ll still always be a prairie person.”

“I feel I have not intergrated into Canadian society.”

MIN LI – Immigrant from China

Min Li , a recen t immigrant from Dezchou, China moved to Brooks to work at the meat packing plant but quit her job to fully concentrate on learning English. “I think I am Chinese and not Canadian right now because of my weak English,” says Li. “I feel I have not integrated into Canadian society. I think I will stay here in the future because of the decision I made to study English.” Li has also joined a Canadian cooking class with her Chinese friends so that she can learn what Canadians eat and integrate quicker into society in Brooks. She is very thankful for her husband who is supporting her so that she can focus on learning English.

“It’s difficult dealing with these people.”

FRED RATTAI – Owner of Garth’s Restaurant

Fred Rattai has lived in Brooks for sixteen years and owns and runs the restaurant Garth’s . He is concerned about the new immigrants bringing crime to the city. “There are gangs in the community,” says Rattai. “The police will say that they definitely identified them. They come and go, many suggest that there at one point was an African Mafia group.” Rattai also says some people feel the immigrants are not trying hard enough to integrate into the society. “I hear people talking, I don’t think they’re racist. They’re uncomfortable with the fact that people aren’t working hard enough, in their opinion, to learn to drive, to become a part of the community.” Rattai also says he finds dealing with the new immigrants frustrating, “They’re slowing things down for people who normally, for years and years, walked into the bank, said hello to the counter person, got their business done and went home, instead of waiting for hours in line at times.”

“Brooks is unique.”

MARTIN SHIELDS – Mayor of Brooks

Martin Shields is the mayor of Brooks. He says the city is unique because in ten years it changed “from basically one culture, one language to representing as many as sixty to seventy different countries with many languages and dialects.” When it comes to the question of crime in Brooks, Mayor Shield says, “The RCMP will tell you there might be members of a gang here in town, but as far as an active gang? Probably not to the degree that people might think.”

“A lot of people don’t like change.”

MAX TATESON – Local rancher

Max Tateson is a local rancher from Brooks. He says that there has been a resistance towards the new immigration in Brooks from some of the longtime residents because “people want things to stay the way they always were. It is all the yearning for the good old days.” Tateson feels that the community has learned a lot from the newcomers and feels empathy for the immigrants, “If you think something bad enough to make you leave your own country to go someplace where you don’t understand the language. They’ve seen things that hopefully we never have to see.”

“Some people don’t really like immigrants.”

FRANCISCO TRUJILLO – Colombian refugee

Francisco Trujillo came to Brooks as a refugee after his work with Human Rights International in Colombia put his life in danger. He has embraced his new life in Brooks and tries to help the other Colombians that are in Brooks as temporary foreign workers to integrate into the society. He organizes volunteer groups to clean up the city on the weekends. Francisco worked at XL Foods Lakeside Packers Inc. but quit after three weeks and says “This work is not for the humans, this work is for the machines.”

“Since I came to Brooks blessings are non-stop.”

EMELYN YABUT – Filipino store owner

Emelyn Yabut moved to Brooks five years ago to work at the local meat packing plant and now owns the Fil-Mart grocery store, which caters to the Filipinos living in Brooks. She is married with a son and is pregnant with her second child. Yabut describes how proud she is of herself that as an immigrant she has been able to start such a successful business. Yabut gives birth to a baby girl at the end of the documentary and says now that she has a boy and a girl that “makes her family perfect.”