MACLEAN’S REPORTS

THE MAN WHO DIDN’T STAY FOR DINNER

DOUGLAS MARSHALL August 20 1966
MACLEAN’S REPORTS

THE MAN WHO DIDN’T STAY FOR DINNER

DOUGLAS MARSHALL August 20 1966

THE MAN WHO DIDN’T STAY FOR DINNER

ON ALMOST EVERY count Doug Armstrong, his wife Jean and their sixmonth-old baby Mark make up the sort of model immigrant family that the Canadian government likes to boast about on its publicity posters

abroad. Doug is a healthy 24-yearold with a good career as a trained commercial artist ahead of him. Jean, 23, was anxious to leave the murky north-of-England industrial city of Sunderland and give her baby a brighter future in clean and classless Canada.

Immigration made good economic sense for the Armstrongs. The best income Doug could hope for in England for some years to come was about $3,000 before rigorous British taxes. Doug had already lined up a $7,000 job with a Canadian firm. And to make the tough transition period even easier, the Armstrongs’ closest friends were already established in a house in Toronto and were prepared to put the family up for as long as they wanted.

So it was small wonder that the Canadian immigration authorities welcomed the Armstrongs with open arms and ushered them through the formalities without a hitch. Doug sold his Sunderland house, liquidated his other assets, shipped two trunks full of heavy belongings ahead by sea and boarded a flight for Canada.

The Armstrongs arrived in Toronto on the afternoon of July 12 with five suitcases, a sample case of Doug’s art work, the baby in a carrycot and the family budgerigar in a little wooden case marked “Livestock.” Customs and immigration were no problem and the Armstrongs were whisked from the airport to downtown Toronto in their friends’ car.

There was a hot meal waiting for them and then, since it was about midnight British time, the Armstrongs went happily to bed. At this stage all that Doug Armstrong had seen of Canada was what is visible in a fast drive from Toronto airport. Yet at eight the next morning Armstrong was frantically calling the airlines. He wanted passage on the next airliner back to England.

And he got it. At 4:30 in the afternoon, after only 24 hours in Canada and without ever having left the house except to travel to and from the airport, the Armstrongs and their five suitcases, carrycot and budgerigar, climbed back aboard the same airliner and flew home to mother England. His brief stay in Canada had cost him his home, his job and about $1,500 in air fares. Neither friends nor logic could persuade him to stay for even one week to see what Canada is like.

“I’ve got no feel for the place,” said Doug Armstrong. “No feel for the place at all. We all have to learn by our mistakes.”

DOUGLAS MARSHALL