• A photo from 1932 article in Canadian Geographic Journal about European immigrants to Canada. Read the story here. (Photo: Canadian Geographic Archives)

Few could many have predicted beforehand that refugee policy would become an issue in the 2015 federal election. The ongoing Syria refugee crisis, however, foisted refugee and immigration issues near the fore. Of course, those particular issues have long been important for Canada—a nation which, as we all well know, has a population that’s largely made up of people, directly or indirectly, from other parts of the world.

Naturally, Canadian Geographic has long covered the topic. Take for example, the story “Glimpses of Europe in western Canada” and “the accompanying maps showing distribution of non-English settlers in three western provinces and across northern and central Europe published in the July 1932 edition of the current magazine’s forerunner, the Canadian Geographic Journal.

Penned by Robert England, the Irish-born western manager, colonization and agriculture at Canadian National Railways, the story detailed the cultural practices introduced to the West from the Old World [Read the story in its entirety here]. England noted examples of architecture “reminiscent of Holland,” and of the “vividness in the colour” of Ukrainian areas and of Mennonite symbols.

The first map, meanwhile, shows where various non-English Europeans (classified as either Scandinavian, German, Slav or French) settled in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It’s a fascinating depiction of regional distribution and, of cartography of the era. The second map illustrates the areas of Europe where certain “races” (including French, Italians, Rumanians (sic), Germans, Scandinavians, Dutch, Austrians, Russians, Eastern Baltic, Poles, Yugo-Slavs, Czecho-Slavs, Hungarians and Finns) were clustered at the time. Combined, the two maps offer an interesting comparison between how Europe had developed and how Western Canada was developing.

Fast forward back to today. All of Canada continues to evolve with continuing influxes of immigrants and refugees from around the world. In some respects, it’s amazing it took a global crisis for Canadians to take a closer look at the issue, again. It’s good we are — the topic is, and has long been, critical to our nation.