Looking towards the future: Relaying the past to our youth

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1 Susan Schembri Canada Looking towards the future: Relaying the past to our youth I am not sure how many of you are aware of the distance between one province and another in Canada. The distance between Ontario and British Columbia is over 3000 miles, and 5 hour flight one way. So when we refer to Canada we must keep that distance in mind. The province of Ontario has the highest number of Maltese living there. They have clubs and even Catholic Churches with Maltese priests. In B.C. we have nothing like that. However, we have many Maltese people who have successfully established a good life for themselves and their families. What is missing, especially for the younger generation, are opportunities for connecting to their Maltese culture. We rely on the young generation to carry on our traditions and culture. Furthermore, the experience of cultural identity and pride, which many believe western countries like Canada are lacking in, can be an enriching part of life that we would like to pass onto our descendents. For these reasons, it is worth considering ways of reaching out to the second, third and forth generations of Maltese residing abroad. This year s conference is a great opportunity to evaluate the success and the setbacks experienced in implementing the recommendations put forth in previous conferences. We can learn from the past while incorporating new ideas presented this year to best accomplish the initiatives of the conference. Recommendations need to be followed up with so that attendants and participants will feel their contributions have been heard and their efforts have been worthwhile. Perhaps a post-conference document could be distributed that briefly outlines how the conference committee has acknowledged the ideas brought forth.

2 During the last conference in 2010, many valid suggestions and recommendations were put forth. A Council for Maltese Living Abroad was formed to represent the Maltese populations living abroad. Members of the Council attended meetings in Malta over the past two years. In between the meetings in Malta they hold teleconferences on regular basis. In Canada, we have two representatives both residing in Ontario, one of the eastern provinces. Since Canada is the second largest country in the world, having representation out east does not necessarily mean that we are kept informed out west. In the spirit of staying connected, it would be beneficial to have a representative in the Western Region of Canada, to make the information flow easier. A number of Maltese in British Columbia own their business. Some are in construction, some in home renovations, and others build exclusive show homes in upscale parts of town. Others are professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and politicians. For example, the mayor of the city, Powell River, in British Columbia is Maltese. Powell River s population is over 13,000 and it is located about 90 miles east of Vancouver. It is easily accessible by Ferry from Vancouver. This city is where most of the Maltese settled when they first immigrated, as there were job opportunities in the Paper Mill. Eventually Maltese nuns were recruited from Malta and they ran a Catholic School until 2 years ago when they retired and returned back to Malta. As for the mayor, both his parents are Maltese, and he is married with children. He has done well for himself, and is a well-respected businessman in the community. I have been recently informed that he has been re-elected to serve another term of four years. These professional Maltese would embrace the opportunity to network with their counterparts in their country of origin and maybe develop mutual business partnerships. For this to transpire, we need the support of the Maltese Government in offering financial assistance and ensuring proper promotion of the enterprise. This leads me to a big concern I have regarding Maltese representation in British Columbia. For many years we have had no representation. Whenever someone needs assistance with execution of documents, passports, visas, and legal matters, there is no one to go to. The only resource we have is the Consulate General in Toronto, Ontario, which is 3000 miles away. This is very inconvenient and impractical as in almost all cases the need is urgent. That being said, I believe we have an Honorary Consul in BC who, to my knowledge, is not Maltese, and whose services most Maltese people are unaware of. As per the information on a Government of BC website ( the Honorary Consul s role includes the following:

3 Represent their country and promote their country s trade within the Consular District; Assist and protect nationals of the country they represent; explain their country s policies and achievements in fields such as culture and tourist attractions; administer oaths, legalize foreign documents and issue passports, visas and certificates. One way that the Maltese Government could address the needs of Maltese in BC would be to make the role of the Honorary Consul more well known to the Maltese population so that they will be aware of the available services and can better access the services they need. Perhaps supporting a newsletter would be a way of keeping Maltese in BC in touch with each other and informed of relevant news and services. Although we are not many, our needs are just as big and important as other Maltese living in different parts of the world, where there is a good representation. One observation made by many Maltese people in BC is that whenever a dignitary visits Canada from Malta, he or she does not visit BC while in the country. The Maltese population would love to welcome a member of the Maltese Government one day. We would love to show them the natural beauty of the Province and then share with them our stories and memories of our lives in BC. We used to have a Canadian Maltese Association of BC, but over time we became disconnected as a formal group. Having a Maltese dignitary visit BC would give a boost to the local Maltese population to get together and could foster a sense of community that is currently lacking. It would be a great opportunity for the young Maltese to learn about and connect with their culture. The new generation, regardless of their cultural background, has had a completely different upbringing than the older generation. Consequently, their values and outlooks are totally different than the older people. The Maltese population in Canada is no different. We need to find out what it takes to get young people interested in staying in touch with their Maltese culture. Many young people are University Graduates looking to build a future, while others have already begun their careers and have started families. Recently, I spoke with a young man, Greg Farrugia, who expressed interest in going to Malta for a one or two year contract teaching either Music or English. His parents are both Maltese but they did not speak the language at home. Consequently, he and his children do not speak the Maltese language either. This is a common occurrence in Canada. Furthermore, there are many mixed marriages wherein one of the parents is not Maltese so the main language spoken at home is English. In these households with

4 differing cultural backgrounds, there is often less opportunity to pass on Maltese traditions. Nonetheless, Greg, and others like him, love their Maltese heritage and are interested in seeking ways to better connect with it. When discussing this matter with a teacher working in both a high school and secondary school in British Columbia, I was made aware of the great opportunities that exist for young students who wish to travel overseas and take courses in a foreign country. This can be done by applying to an International Baccalaureate Programme which is offered at some of the high schools around the world. The two in Malta are St. Edward s College in Vittoriosa and Verdala International School in Fort Pembroke. Both offer diploma programmes for various subjects. These include Biology, Chemistry, Business and Management, Economics, Physics, Mathematics, Psychology and others. Of course there are several of these colleges around the world, including Canada. If the Government of Malta would consider offering financial incentives for descendents of Maltese living abroad to attend one of these colleges, this could be a great opportunity to generate interest in reconnecting the younger generation of Maltese abroad to their heritage. Students could be billeted to defray living costs and encourage cultural integration. In promoting these existing study programs, we would also be encouraging students born and raised in Malta to take study abroad opportunities that create potential for greater networking and exchange of culture. These International Baccalaureate Diplomas may not be recognized at some Universities, so one would have to inquire about that before making a commitment. I believe the results of promoting these international study programs would be very successful and constructive. The students involved would then return to their own country and share the great experience they had while in Malta. This could create a ripple effect that may encourage other students to apply or spark new interest in Maltese culture among youth. In addition to promoting study abroad options, we need to consider what other opportunities exist to attract young people to their Maltese culture. The younger generation of Maltese Canadians are interested in connecting with their Maltese background, however the social aspect is different to that of the older Maltese people. In my opinion, the younger generation is not interested in joining clubs, attending Festas, and sitting around talking about the olden times and customs. They have social media to keep them occupied and it has become a modern and accessible means of communication that could be better utilized for promoting

5 connection with young Maltese. They all have talents; some are into sports, some are into arts and music, some are academically inclined. It would be so good to have these young, capable people share and exchange their talents between their country of residence and the country of their heritage, Malta. This networking could be achieved by using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Making the most of the global accessibility of social media could help Malta connect with young Maltese abroad while also promoting everything Malta has to offer. Malta s beaches, night life, hospitality and even the history of the island itself can draw the interest of those abroad to explore their cultural roots. Lastly, I have one more suggestion. A financial incentive to attract the youth to attend the conference should be considered. We need to invite them and encourage them to bring along their suggestions and input. I believe that offering them financial incentive will be well received and will give them a better opportunity to attend. To summarize, the suggestions I am putting forth for improving communication and promoting Maltese culture among young Maltese abroad are as follows. Revisiting recommendations from previous years, build on them with current ideas and have a post-conference outline sent out addressing the ideas Promoting study abroad options, providing financial assistance to children of Maltese abroad who wish to study in Malta Utilizing social media outlets to connect with youth and promote Malta Making better use of the services already provided such as BC s Honorary Consul Have a dignitary visit British Columbia, Canada Promote the attendance of young Maltese at the conference providing financial aid I wish to thank the organizing committee and the Government of Malta for putting on this conference and giving me the opportunity to present my paper on behalf of the Maltese living in British Columbia Canada.

6 I sincerely hope that the contents of my paper is what the directors are looking for, as I believe there is great potential to work with our Maltese youth to bring them to a full circle of life with their Maltese heritage. They are our New Perspectives. Susan Schembri Canada

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