Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting
THE COMING YEAR MARKS 150 YEARS (1871-2021) SINCE BC JOINED CANADA. This anniversary arrives at a critical moment: Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and other Indigenous peoples are challenging dispossession and environmental racism; the Black Lives Matter movement is demanding foundational change; Japanese Canadians are seeking BC restitution for the attempted ethnic cleansing of the province; and the fight against racisms associated with COVID-19 is broadening in response to systemic racism. 150 Years and Counting (150YC) is a new open-access, multi-media resource that documents how this recent cycle of anti-racist activism is part of a broader history of Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities challenging white supremacy for over 150 years – particularly since 1871 when BC joined Canada. Co-authored by activists & scholars from diverse communities, this resource will assist anti-racist educators, teachers, scholars, and policymakers in piercing the silences that too often have let racism fester in communities, corporations, and governments. 150YC is co-produced by the UVIC History project Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office.
The 80-page, fully illustrated 150YC booklet was released in February 2021, and can be accessed as a PDF HERE. An online version of the text will become available on March 25th, 2021.
This Spring, the 150YC project will also release accompanying video content and an enhanced, interactive digital edition with direct links to primary sources, community-based resources, learning activities, and more.
To contact us, please email email@example.com.
Nicholas XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton is an assistant professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria and elected chief of Tsawout Nation (WSÁNEĆ). His doctoral work focused on the revitalization of his nation’s traditional reef net fishery. He is a co-author of “Whose Land Is It? Rethinking Sovereignty in British Columbia,” in BC Studies, 204 (Winter 2019/20).
Denise Fong is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia where her research focuses on critical heritage and Chinese Canadian history. She is the co-curator of A Seat at the Table - Chinese Immigration and British Columbia, produced by the Museum of Vancouver and UBC. She was the co-curator of Burnaby Village Museum’s award-winning exhibit, Across the Pacific that explored the history and legacy of Chinese Canadians in Burnaby.
Fran Morrison is a director with the BC Black History Awareness Society, managing and overseeing the content research and development for their website. She is the project manager for a BC Black History project with Digital Museums Canada.
Christine O’Bonsawin is the former director of Indigenous Studies at the University of Victoria. Of the Abenaki, Odanak Nation, her research focuses on Indigenous sport history. She co-edited the Journal of Sport History Special Edition: Indigenous Resurgence, Regeneration and Decolonization through Sport History (2019) as well as the special issue of B.C. Studies, (Un)Settling the Islands: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific (2020).
Maryka Omatsu is a judge and a member of the negotiating team that won the 1988 redress agreement with the federal government. She is the author of Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese Canadian Experience and producer of the video Swimming Upstream – Injustice Revealed. She currently is a director of the National Association of Japanese Canadians.
John Price is professor emeritus of history at the University of Victoria. He is the author of Orienting Canada: Race, Empire and the Transpacific (2011) and co-editor of the special issue of BC Studies, (Un)Settling the Islands: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific (2020).
Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra is the coordinator of the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley and co-curator of exhibits at the Sikh Heritage Museum, located at the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford BC. A PhD candidate in history at the University of British Columbia, she specializes in museum history using critical race theory.
Jackie Bohez is the project’s advisor on multi-media production. With a background in organizational and cultural change, Jackie believes in the power of story-telling and video advocacy as a tool to engage people to create change. A recent co-recipient of Commffest’s Making a Difference Award, her videos address racial injustice, animal cruelty and community advocacy.
John Endo Greenaway is the project’s graphic designer/advisor. He is a designer, writer, taiko player and composer based in Port Moody, BC. He began exploring his mixed Japanese Canadian heritage as a founding member of Canada’s first taiko group in 1979, and has delved even deeper over the past 27 years as editor of The Bulletin: a journal of Japanese Canadian community, history & culture. He is a co-author of the 2017 book Departures: chronicling the expulsion of the Japanese Canadians from the west coast 1942-1949.
Jessica MacVicar is the project researcher and media developer. She recently completed her BA in Political Science and Social Justice Studies at the University of Victoria. She is excited to be a part of the ACVI project, to learn more about the history of this region, to challenge harmful, inaccurate colonial narratives, and to assist in educating others to advance a better future for all.
Brian Smallshaw is responsible for the project’s web development. Brian completed his M.A. in history at the University of Victoria in 2017. He lived for many years in Japan and other countries in Asia prior to moving to Saltspring Island. He is the author of “The Murakami Women of Saltspring Island” in BC Studies, 204 (Winter 2019/20). His book on the dispossession of Japanese Canadians on Saltspring Island, As If They Were the Enemy, was published in 2020.
Copyediting: Ann-Marie Metten
Support: Consuela Covring, UVIC
Printing: East Van Graphics
Funded by a four-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, the University of Victoria research project “Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific” partnered with small museums on Vancouver Island and adjacent islands to collect stories and archival materials related to Asian Canadian (including Japanese, Chinese, and South Asian Canadians) and Indigenous peoples on the islands. The project, with its partners, organized a 2017 travelling exhibit, 150 Years and Counting: Fighting for Justice on the Coast and an accompanying booklet by the same name. Last year two of the project researchers, Christine O’Bonsawin and John Price, co-edited a special issue of BC Studies, (Un)Settling the Islands: Race, Indigeneity, and the Transpacific. ACVI is pleased to co-publish with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC Office) this new work.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social, economic and environmental justice. The CCPA BC Office investigates key challenges facing our province, and proposes policy solutions that promote systemic change. For further information see: www.policyalternatives.ca/offices/bc/about
Challenging Racist “British Columbia,” 150 Years and Counting retells history from the perspective of the marginalized; white supremacist origins and the marginalization of Indigenous, Black and Asian peoples as well as staunch historical and contemporary anti-colonial and anti-racist resistance. Vividly illustrated, concise, accessibly and engagingly written, this gem of a text offers difficult knowledge about the past, examples of continued activism in the present and hence hope for an equitable future.
Handel Kashope Wright, Centre for Culture, Identity & Education, University of British Columbia
At a time in our history when we have seen unprecedented changes in society, this book provides the foundational knowledge and justification for the need to drastically challenge the deep-rooted racism in so-called “British Columbia.” This book beautifully represents the resistance ovements currently underway that seriously challenge another 150 years of racist “British Columbia.”
Sleydo (Molly Whickham), spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, Wet’suwet’en
150 Years and Counting is a ‘must read’ for all Canadians. Rarely has a book on British Columbia covered the story of systemic racism so fully and powerfully as this one. It should be a staple of classrooms and households across the county.
Wendy Wickwire, professor emerita, BC history; author of award-winning biography of James Teit, At the Bridge.
This is an accessible and engaging resource that will help teachers and students in an anti-racist process of understanding how a long history of racism has left enduring consequences that must be undone for British Columbia to truly achieve its promise of a just and inclusive society. The authors have used concise prose and effective visuals to convey difficult and yet important ideas in a clear and effective manner.
Henry Yu, University of British Columbia
With Challenging Racist “British Columbia,” 150 Years and Counting, the authors provide a wonderfully dense history of the fight against racism in BC. Readable, pithy, concise, and brief; packed with incredible stories of resistance and exposing the role of the BC government in constructing a white province that has led to a history of racism and discrimination.
Jennifer Iredale, former director, Heritage Branch, Government of BC
A timely, multi-faceted, accessible assessment of the complexity of racism in this province. It is an excellent step, as voiced in the introduction, “in the development of inclusive, intersectional analyses to support decolonization”.
Sherri Kajiwara, Director|Curator, Nikkei National Museum
This new resource gives a much-needed, fresh and intercultural look at BC history from previously marginalized perspectives, including those of our host First Nations. The book is an accessible “must-read” for anyone wanting to understand how systemic racism came to be embedded within BC society and institutions.
Wendy Yip (President) and Winnie Cheung (Executive Director), Pacific Canada Heritage Centre-Museum of Migration Society
150 Years and Counting not only covers a wide range of racisms and links past racisms to contemporary discriminations but, importantly, it also provides accounts of resistance and strength of Indigenous peoples, Black peoples and other people of colour in what we now know as British Columbia. The beautiful stories, creative works and images make this an accessible and engaging resource that should be widely shared.
Rita Kaur Dhamoon, anti-racist feminist, co-author of Unmooring the Komagata Maru: Charting Colonial Trajectories.
This print edition of Challenging Racist “British Columbia,” 150 Years and Counting originated with the University of Victoria research project, Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific (ACVI). It is co-published by ACVI and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC Office). The authors, development team, and publishers acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. We pay tribute to the many activists and scholars, particularly from Indigenous, Black and racialized communities, whose efforts in fighting for justice over the past 150 years and more, inspire and inform this booklet. The views expressed in this resource are those of the authors, and the responsibility for errors or faulty interpretations are theirs alone. Financial support for ACVI came from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
This resource could not have been produced without the active support of Shannon Daub (Director), Emira Mears (Associate Director), and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC Office). We are very grateful to have CCPA(BC) as co-publisher and extend our appreciation to Jean Kavanagh (Manager, Media and Public Relations) for her work with the media. Thank you to Rachael Otukol and the Board of the BC Black History Awareness Society for their active support during the final editing of the resource. For their inspiration and wonderful artwork, we thank master carver Ahtsik-sta Qwayachiik (Sanford Williams) and partner Marlana Williams. We are deeply indebted to the reviewers of an earlier draft of this resource, including Sleydo/Molly Wickham of the Gidimt’en checkpoint; Henry Yu, Chris Lee, Handel Kashope Wright (all at UBC); Wendy Wickwire and Rita Kaur Dhamoon (UVic); Wendy Yip and Winnie Cheung of the Pacific Canada Heritage Centre-Museum of Migration; Jennifer Iredale, retired Director of the Province of BC’s Heritage Branch; Sherri Kajiwara, Director/Curator of the Nikkei National Museum; Joy Masuhara, social justice activist; Art Miki, past president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians.
Our sincere appreciation to Karen Aird and Suzanne Gessner of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and Marianne Nicolson for their assistance with maps; to Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, Toronto chapter, National Asssociation of Japanese Canadians, for her assistance with Chapter 5; to Jeff Corntassel of UVic’s Indigenous Studies program for his help with the glossary; to the Nikkei National Museum for ongoing support and use of historic images; to Beth Boyce and the Museum at Campbell River for their extensive assistance over the years; and to the Cumberland Museum and Archives for its ongoing support. Paige Raibmon and Leanne Coughlin at the scholarly journal, BC Studies, were instrumental in assisting with the publication of the special issue “(Un)Settling the Islands: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific” (BC Studies 204, Winter 2019/20) that included many articles referred to in this resource. Many individuals stepped forward to help in a myriad of ways – they include Dave Ages and Virginia Monk, social activists; Barbara Lee of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival; Karin Lee, award-winning filmmaker; Ellen Woodsworth of Women Transforming Cities.
We are grateful to the many people and institutions who supported this project by providing us with visual and artistic media, including Tommy Tao who granted permission to use the Florence Chia-Ying Yeh poem, and to Lee Maracle and Janisse Browning for allowing us to publish their work in this resource. We thank those who provided us with photos, media, and research support, including the Sikh Heritage Museum, Cynthia Kent, Driftpile Cree Nation, the Langham Cultural Society, the Royal BC Museum and Archives, and many others.
The ACVI project was directed by John Price and included researchers Rita Kaur Dhamoon and Christine O’Bonsawin (both at the University of Victoria) as well as Tusa Shea (UVIC) and Imogene Lim (Vancouver Island University), who participated in the earlier phases of the project to 2017. Although not directly involved in this version of 150 Years and Counting, we raise our hands to Margarita James and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht peoples, the WSÁNEĆ peoples, and the Lekwungen peoples who have supported the ACVI project. Partner museums in earlier phases of the ACVI project included Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives, Kaatza Station Museum and Archives, Cumberland Museum and Archives, Royal BC Museum and Archives, Alberni Valley Museum, Nanaimo Museum, Nanaimo Community Archives, the Museum at Campbell River, Salt Spring Archives and Library, Sidney Museum and Archives, Esquimalt Municipal Archives, Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre, U’mista Cultural Centre, and the Japanese Garden Society on Saltspring Island. Vancouver Island University also contributed substantially to the project. With their assistance, and the work of Steven Davies, Kyla Fitzgerald, Connie Graham, Wenjuan Lu, Owen Mar, Sonia Manak, Jennifer Seidel, Tad Suzuki, Jeff Tanaka, Macayla Yan, Brian Smallshaw, Faith Takashita, and Jillian Valpy, the ACVI project visited many communities, gathered documents, conducted interviews, and worked collaboratively with our partners to unearth stories long forgotten or marginalized. The research collection from their efforts formed the documentary basis for 150 Years and Counting.