This page was created by Robyn LeLacheur. 

Looking Back: Temporal and Spatial Connections of Post-War Migration and Displacement Through the Eyes of the Toronto Telegram

War Guests, (Im)migrants, and Refugees


During the selection phase of this archive, I noted the varying language used by Telegram staff in describing the people in their photographs. The terms that repeatedly appeared were "War Guest", "immigrant" or "migrant", and "refugee". What was interesting about the use of these specific terms was the patterns I found in the photo's subjects faces.

War Guests

In additional research, I was not able to come across a formal definition for "war guest", but in using the word, "guest," it can be inferred that those who were called War Guests were only staying in whatever location, temporarily. In recalling her memories of the Second World War, Ruth Barton Tassara explained that it was disrespectful to call the war guests "evacuees", despite that being what they were. She said in coming to Canada, it felt as though her and her sister, Anne, were going on a holiday, and the Canadian children she attended school with affectionately called Britain, "Mother Country." 

The war guests that were captured by the Toronto Telegram photographers came to Canada (among other nations) with possessions and a sense of excitement behind their eyes. 


Immigrant, noun, a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. [Oxford Dictionary]

Migrant, noun, a person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work or better living conditions. [Oxford Dictionary]

Many of the (im)migrants that were photographed by the Telegram staff were taken after the conclusion of WWII. Typically those who came to Canada were looking to improve their living conditions and escape economic hardship, and the photographs taken by the Toronto Telegram were of people primarily coming from Greece and Italy.

Many of the expressions shown in the images are of relief or exhaustion after the long process of travelling to Canada. What I found interesting about the language surrounding the term "immigrant" was how they were publicized as "new Canadians", as though they have already been accepted into the multicultural weave of Canadian society.


Refugee, noun, a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. [Oxford Dictionary]

In the definition of "refugee", it states that fleeing war is qualification to obtain refugee status. Although, those coming from the United Kingdom were considered "war guests" despite sufficiently meeting the refugee criterion of escaping war. What I think the Toronto Telegram was conveying to the public was two different messages by separating the war guests from the refugees: (1) those coming from the "Mother Country" were not the "other", they are welcomed guests, or even family, while; (2) those who were considered refugees were people that were escaping war and violence because they were the subject of persecution, similar to that as an "asylum seeker". 

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., "immigrant (n.)," accessed April 29, 2018.
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., "migrant (n.)," accessed April 29, 2018.
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., "refugee (n.)," accessed April 29, 2018.
Tassara, Ruth Barton. "Britain at War: 'War Guests' in Canada." The Telegraph. February 18, 2009.

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