When Madhu Verma’s mother left Pakistan in the late 1940s, one of the essential possessions she brought with her was a handcrafted, gold-threaded silk shirt that she had received as a wedding present at the age of 11. (At the time, marriage was an act of protection for young girls in Pakistan, who faced abduction from surrounding communities in the absence of a partner.) The shirt has since travelled the world with Verma’s family.
Madhu Verma was born in Pakistan, raised in India and married in the United States prior to arriving in Canada in 1962. She has since worked tirelessly to champion immigrant rights, including becoming a founding chair of the Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick (AHSNB).
Today, Verma’s mother’s silk shirt is not only a testament to her family’s journey, but also an eye-catching part of “Multicultural New Brunswick: Equality, Appreciation, Preservation, Participation,” a current exhibit at the Fredericton Region Museum. The show examines historical immigration to the province—spanning to cover Scottish and Irish newcomers, Black Loyalists and political refugees; the impact of Canada’s 1971 multiculturalism policy; and the future role of multiculturalism in New Brunswick.
The exhibit launched this past August 20, which coincided with the museum’s annual open house. Over 450 people visited the opening, which included a ceremony with speeches by city councillors, local MPs and Verma herself. Opening-day festivities also included face painting, food and drinks from around the world, arts and crafts, and live fiddle music.
“As part of the 150 celebrations, by thinking about what’s happened in the past [in terms of the immigrant experience], what we can improve on—it’s a good chance to reflect and think about what direction we want New Brunswick and Canada to take in the next 50, 150 years,” explains Alan Shepherd, project manager at the Fredericton Region Museum.
“Multicultural New Brunswick: Equality, Appreciation, Preservation, Participation,” will be on display at the Fredericton Region Museum for the next three years. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in September through November, and by appointment (506-455-6041) or chance from December through March. Follow this link for more information about its hours of operation.