"The Forgotten Assyrians of Canada"

 

It all started when…

The journey begin in 2016 when the President of CCAR, Mr. Aneki Nissan, was asked to testify before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on behalf of the Assyrian community in Canada. It was here that Mr. Nissan went to the Canadian War Museum and was humbled by the sacrifices Canadians and their families made for the freedoms we are blessed with today.

While there, Mr. Nissan decided to search the Personnel Records of the First World War. He put in various names typical with the Assyrian community. He tried "Sargon", "Ashour", "Eshu", "Dinkha", "Younan" all with no luck. He finally tried "Sapar" and it opened a new chapter in his quest for knowledge about the Assyrians that arrived in Canada before him.

 

Joe backus

The journey begin in 2016 when the President of CCAR, Mr. Aneki Nissan, was asked to testify before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on behalf of the Assyrian community in Canada. It was here that Mr. Nissan went to the Canadian War Museum and was humbled by the sacrifices Canadians and their families made for the freedoms we are blessed with today.

While there, Mr. Nissan decided to search the Personnel Records of the First World War. He put in various names typical with the Assyrian community. He tried "Sargon", "Ashour", "Eshu", "Dinkha", "Younan" all with no luck. He finally tried "Sapar" and it opened a new chapter in his quest for knowledge about the Assyrians that arrived in Canada before him.

He recalled an article he had read in Zinda magazine about Assyrians from North Battleford, Saskatchewan and so he emailed their archives to see if they had any record about an Assyrian who may have served in either WWI or WWII.

They replied with the name "Joseph Backus" and attached several pictures and news clippings they had on record. Seeing this, Mr. Nissan decided to write an article titled Today We Remember the FallenWithin a few short days, he received an email from another "Joe Backus" thanking Mr. Nissan and CCAR for writing about his uncle. Joe Backus also stated in the email that he had medals, pictures, letters, and that his father (Joseph Backus' brother) was still alive and was willing to share family stories with us.

A quick email to CCAR members in Vancouver and a few conversations later, Mr. Nissan decided to embark on this ambitious project to reveal Joseph Backus, and other, Forgotten Assyrians of Canada to the world.


Assyrians of north battleford

The journey to reveal the Forgotten Assyrians of Canada lead Mr. Nissan and his team to the small city of North Battleford in rural Saskatchewan. With a population of 13,888, North Battleford is a cold, remote city. It is a far cry from the warm climate the Assyrians were used to back in Urmia, Assyria (modern day Iran). So it came as a big surprise to them that there were still descendants of the first Assyrian settlers still there!

The documentary team met with several surviving members of the first Assyrians including, Tom Younan, Don Backus, and the proud Assyrian, Margaret Beach.

Margaret has worked tirelessly in her community to raise awareness of the first Assyrian settlers and to instill a sense of pride among the community about them (see New Lamps for Old). She continues to make some traditional dishes her mother taught her at a young age and still greets us in her native Assyrian tongue.

But thanks to father time and a decrease in the Assyrian population in the city, the language and other customs of the Assyrian community are nearly extinct. Yes, there are newcomer Assyrians living in nearby Saskatoon and Regina, but for the original Assyrian settlers, their knowledge of the language and customs has faded away.

But one thing remains true with Margaret and with every other Assyrian we spoke to, they know where they come from and they are proud of their family's stories. 

They are also so proud to tell their story about how their families came to Canada, the sacrifices they made, and the advice they have to newcomer Assyrians.


How can you help

This documentary needs your support. You can help in many ways!

  1. You can safely and securely donate here and/or
  2. You can share this page and our Facebook page and/or
  3. Email us with your stories about any Assyrian-Canadians who may have been "forgotten" with time.

CCAR wants to thank each and everyone of you who have donated, shared, liked, or followed our posts and websites. We know with your continued support, this documentary, as well as other projects we work on, will be a success.


 

Sapar Esaw Attestation Paper (1916)


Joseph Backus (1942)

 

Don Backus and Margaret Beach with Aneki Nissan in North Battleford, Saskatchewan

 

Fundraising Goal

Updated April 16th, 2018