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Italian immigrant shares his journey amidst asylum seekers arriving to Winnipeg

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Italian immigrant shares his journey amidst asylum seekers arriving to Winnipeg
WATCH: An Italian immigrant who moved to Winnipeg decades ago shares the story of his journey. Global's Talia Ricci tells the story. – Feb 22, 2017

WINNIPEG — At a time when asylum seekers coming into Canada face some backlash, one Manitoban shared what his journey was like decades ago.

For Joe Grande, it doesn’t feel like too long ago that Winnipeg looked very different to him.

RELATED: Recent asylum seekers speak to Global News about journey to Canada

“The first thing was the language. I didn’t know a word. So I had to learn everything from scratch,” Grande said.

Grande owns Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano. He immigrated to Winnipeg from Italy nearly five decades ago. He says he remembers a time when it was tough to make friends, adjust to the weather and feel settled in his new home.

Photos submitted by Joe Grande of his family

RELATED: Why are asylum seekers crossing into Canada on foot and what are their rights?

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“Being an Italian, everybody kind of, or at least I thought they were making fun of me so I got in a lot of little fights and would get sent home from school,” Grande recalls.

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As he heard stories of the asylum seekers crossing the border, he said he feels empathy for their challenges.

“I hire many immigrants for back of the house because I know what they’re going through. When it comes to communicating with them I take my time,” Grande said.

Years later, he said he understands why his parents moved to Winnipeg, and like the refugees seeking status in the city now, his family relied on the community for guidance.

“Italians aren’t coming to Canada anymore, at least not right now,” he said.

“But other groups are. And I think its just their time to come over it’s a natural process.”

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