“BRITISH COLUMBIA”? RESILIENT
COMMUNITIES: SOUTH ASIAN AND BEYOND

  1. Do you think British Columbia became a majority White province by coincidence or through deliberate policy choices? Explain your answer.
  2. What is your understanding of immigration? How do you identify with the term “immigrant”? What nuances and tensions exist between “immigrant” and “settler” identities?
  3. For non-Indigenous students, what barriers and obstacles did your family experience when settling in Canada? What privileges did your family have when they first settled in Canada?
  1. Drawing on historical and contemporary examples, what is the relationship between government policies and the instituting of racism? What specific examples illustrate that relationship?
  2. The depiction of Indigenous, Black and Asian immigrants as victims of White settler colonial oppression is a common trope in mainstream media and textbooks. What are some clear examples of resistance and solidarity between the various communities? Why is it important to learn about them?
  3. How do various institutions such as government, criminal justice, media, and education work concurrently to produce racial stereotypes and inequities?

After union with Canada, Indigenous peoples strove to survive and surmount the provincial and federal government’s assault on their communities through dispossession of their lands and the abuses associated with residential schools. Many Black people left the province in the face of everyday racism and those that remained faced and overcame innumerable barriers. Many Chinese miners who had entered the province in the 1850s left in the face of ongoing discrimination.

Chinese newcomers in particular faced an onslaught of racist legislation that accelerated as the province moved to block all immigration from Asia while providing substantial assistance to settlers from Britain and Europe. The goal, pronounced on many occasions, was a “White British Columbia.” Survival depended on families and communities relying on one another. Only strong community bonds allowed Indigenous peoples and racialized communities to transcend the challenges.

In 1878, the provincial legislature passed legislation to tax the Chinese living in BC at $40 per year (a breathing tax). Chinese workers and merchants responded by going on strike that September: “Ladies are doing their own kitchen and housework, restaurant and hotel-keepers their own cooking, heads of families are sawing their own wood and blacking their own boots.”1 A leading merchant, Tai Sing, and eleven others sued the government.2 The BC Supreme Court ruled that only the federal government could pass such an act and the tax was struck down.

The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, part of the Terms of Union, was largely subsidized by the federal government and received huge swaths of Indigenous land without consulting First Nations. The CPR also required a large number of labourers, and Chinese workers came to fill the gap. They often were employed on the most dangerous jobs and an estimated 600 or more Chinese labourers perished in the process. Their reward? To be laid off without notice, left to fend for themselves in difficult terrain, and then largely erased from the history of the CPR.3

The provincial government hounded the Chinese in the province, passing legislation in 1884 prohibiting Chinese individuals from pre-empting land. The provincial government adopted more than 200 legislative instruments that discriminated, first against the Chinese, and later against Japanese and South Asian residents.4

IMMIGRATION

The first Japanese settlers arrived in British Columbia a few years after union with Canada, and South Asians, largely from the Punjab, began arriving at the turn of the century.5

COMMUNITY RESOURCE

On early arrivals from South Asia, see Sikh Heritage Museum | canadiansikhheritage.ca/

Read BC Studies, Issue 204: Masako Fukawa, “Lifting the Veil on Nanaimo’s Nikkei Community: From Settlement to Return”
Vancouver Sun, 1913
Vancouver Sun, 1913

The Vancouver Sun
“A White British Columbia”

The Vancouver Sun had a long history of not only reporting racism but also promoting it among its readers. Actions such as theirs were instrumental in fomenting hatred against Indigenous peoples as well as those from Asia. That record has not been adequately addressed to date.

Lee Don paid $500 in 1918 to enter Canada as illustrated by this head tax certificate. The provincial government demanded the restriction of Chinese immigration in 1884 onwards until the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited immigration. “Certificate - Chinese Immigration Act, From C to C – Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration,”
licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Lee Don paid $500 in 1918 to enter Canada as illustrated by this head tax certificate. The provincial government demanded the restriction of Chinese immigration in 1884 onwards until the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited immigration. “Certificate - Chinese Immigration Act, From C to C – Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration,” licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

COMMUNITY RESOURCE

For a cross-cultural approach to Pacific Canada visit the Pacific Canada Heritage Centre - Museum of Migration | https://pchc-mom.ca

The BC legislature continuously demanded control over immigration, passing its own British Columbia Immigration Acts ten times between 1884 and 1908 to stop immigration from Asia. Such acts were vetoed by the federal government, which viewed immigration as its exclusive prerogative. In Victoria, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association came together in 1884, largely to protest the provincial government’s attempt to introduce An Act to Prevent the Immigration of Chinese, 1884–1885. In response, the federal government convened the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration that held hearings in BC beginning in 1884. On the first day, the head of this commission explained why such a commission was established: “British Columbia has repeatedly by her Legislature, as well as by her representatives in Parliament, solicited the Executive and Parliament of Canada to enact a law prohibiting the incoming of Chinese to British Columbia.”6 Though convened by the federal government, the Royal Commission was a response to the tide of white supremacy in the province. Not surprisingly it recommended the discriminatory $50 head tax on Chinese immigrants, a proposal adopted and legislated by the federal government in 1885 once the CPR was completed and Chinese workers were considered dispensable.7 Often left destitute when the CPR was completed, many survived only because they received support from Indigenous communities and in some cases Chinese men developed relationships with Indigenous women.8

VIDEO LINK:

Cedar and Bamboo | www.cchsbc.ca/cedar--bamboo9

All Our Father’s Relations (trailer only) | allourfathersrelations.com/trailers

From C to C - Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration | bit.ly/370eoSd

Wreckage on Vancouver’s Powell Street after violent anti-Asian riot on September 7, 1907. UBC Special Collections JCPC.36.017.
Wreckage on Vancouver’s Powell Street after violent anti-Asian riot on September 7, 1907. UBC Special Collections JCPC.36.017.

Working with federal officials, the BC government first favoured British immigration, providing settlers and corporations with access to Indigenous lands and resources. Later, the search for white settlers expanded, embracing first those from northern Europe (Swedes, Finns, Germans, and others), then southern Europe (Italians and Greeks), and finally Eastern Europeans. These latter groups often faced discrimination in an Anglo-dominated society. The legal and institutional targeting of Asian immigrants, however, took matters to an exceptional level.

For example, complaints from the BC government about Asian immigrants drove the federal government to again sponsor another investigation, this time a Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration that reported in 1902.10 The Commission again recommended an increase in the Chinese head tax to $500 per person, an extraordinary amount in those days. The BC government received over twenty-three million in revenue from this source alone. Only in 2014 did the BC government finally respond to demands for redress spearheaded by activist organizations such as the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) and Head Tax Families Society of Canada.

Gim Wong’s Motorcycle Ride for Redress

In 2005, World War II veteran Gim Wong rode his motorcycle across Canada at the age of 82 to fight for redress on behalf of Chinese Head Tax–payer families. The journey became known as the Gim Wong’s Ride for Redress.11

COMMUNITY RESOURCE

Gim Wong’s 2005 Ride for Redress | vimeo.com/461527211

Chinese and Japanese settlers continued to cross the Pacific to BC, prompting the provincial government to again introduce new legislation, the British Columbia Immigration Act in 1898. This legislation was modelled on the racist Natal Act in southern Africa and had its origins in “Jim Crow” legislation in Mississippi that prevented people of African descent from voting by imposing literacy tests or other prohibitive requirements. Introduced eight times in the BC legislature, it was generally disallowed except in 1907. With the legislation allowed to stand, BC-based immigration officials imposed language tests on newcomers arriving in BC and two Japanese men, Nakane and Okazake, were detained. They filed and won a legal challenge to the provincial government legislation.12

By this time, however, government policies had reinforced popular anti-Asian racism. In September 1907, Chinese and Japanese communities rose in protest when white rioters in Vancouver attacked Chinatown and the Japanese Canadian community on Powell Street. During the anti-Asian Vancouver riot, the Chinese community initially took shelter from the rioters but many purchased rifles to defend themselves and a three-day protest strike ensued. In Powell Street, the heart of the Japanese Canadian community, residents repelled the rioters after being alerted to their arrival. Inquiries into the riot, convened in 1907 by future prime minister Mackenzie King, ended up blaming the victims. His inquiries, furthermore, led the government to impose new immigration restrictions directed against newcomers from Japan and from India.

COMMUNITY RESOURCE:

Pivotal Voices: Exploring Identity, Inclusion and Citizenship: The 1907 Vancouver Riots, available at | bit.ly/2JgJexf

COMMUNITY RESOURCE

360 Riot Walk is an interactive tour of the 1907 anti-Asian riots, curated by Vancouver artist Henry Tsang | https://360riotwalk.ca/

In the case of Japan, federal representatives went to Japan and pressured the Japanese government to limit immigration to 400 labourers per year. In the case of India, the government amended the Immigration Act to “prohibit the landing in Canada of any specified class of immigrants or of any immigrants who have to Canada otherwise than by continuous journey from the country of which they are natives or citizens and upon through tickets purchased in that country.”13 This legislation, demanded by the provincial government, barred not only Chinese, Japanese, and South Asian newcomers, it also prohibited the entry of Filipinos and most others. The federal government then introduced similar restrictions to bar the entry of Black people to Canada in 1911.

Husain Rahim (centre with hat) and members of Sikh community in front of Victoria’s detention centre, 1913. Kohaly Collection, Special Collections, Simon Fraser University Library.
Husain Rahim (centre with hat) and members of Sikh community in front of Victoria’s detention centre, 1913. Kohaly Collection, Special Collections, Simon Fraser University Library.

Husain Rahim

Husain Rahim, along with many others, protested the continuous journey regulation, adopted in 1908 as a way of stopping immigration from India. In 1913, passengers aboard the Panama Maru responded to attempts to stop them from landing in Victoria by taking the government to court. Members from the Victoria Topaz Street Sikh temple (gurdwara) publicly protested with Rahim. The lawyer, J. Edward Bird, successfully argued their case in court. Fifty-five newcomers from India entered the country. The provincial and federal governments panicked, introducing a blanket ban on Asian immigration to BC.

COMMUNITY RESOURCE

Komagata Maru: Continuing the Journey | komagatamarujourney.ca

Continuous Journey from Ali Kazimi on Vimeo.

When Gurdit Singh chartered the Komagata Maru the following year, the government refused to allow these British subjects – 337 Sikhs, 27 Muslims and 12 Hindus – even to land, holding them onboard for two months.14

While the main-street press published headlines about a “Hindu Invasion,” the Khalsa Diwan Society and the Shore Committee mobilized in gurdwaras across the province to support the passengers trapped by the authorities. Hundreds turned out for a public meeting in June to support the movement demanding that the passengers be landed, including over 100 members of the Socialist Party of Canada.15 The Canadian naval vessel The Rainbow trained its guns on the vessel, forcing it from the harbour. British authorities met the ship upon its return, provoking a confrontation and killing 20 of the passengers. These events, the rising anti-colonial movement in India, supported by the newly formed Ghadar Party in the Pacific Northwest, led many activists in South Asian communities in North America to depart for India.16 The community was reduced to only a few thousand people after the war.

Read BC Studies, Issue 204: Neilesh Bose, “Taraknath Das (1884–1958): British Columbia, and the Anti-Colonial Borderlands”
On May 23, 1914, the SS Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver with 376 passengers. The government denied them entry to Canada, and they had to remain on board for two months before being forced to leave under armed escort. In the left foreground is the ship sponsor, Gurdit Singh and his son Balwant. Vancouver Public Library 6231 PNG.
Paldi was one of the centres of the South Asian community in BC. Here women and children gather near the home of Mayo Singh, circa 1938. Courtesy of Tomoko Okada.
Paldi was one of the centres of the South Asian community in BC. Here women and children gather near the home of Mayo Singh, circa 1938. Courtesy of Tomoko Okada.

Communities suffered from these harsh immigration regulations that often divided families. Women were particularly hard hit, either left behind in their home countries or forced to carry the double burden of work and family.

Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver was a strategic centre of the Black communities in British Columbia.

Hogan’s Alley, 1958. City of Vancouver Archives.
Hogan’s Alley, 1958. City of Vancouver Archives.

LITERARY MOMENT

The sense of loss and longing of separated partners is captured in this poem by Kuldip Gill (1934–2009), part of the exhibit (DIS)enfranchisement held at the Gur Sikh Temple, Sikh Heritage Museum, Abbotsford, in 2017.

Can I live this love, matching you to poetry
In Urdu, Gurmukhi and Hindi,
And have as reply only your few unlettered
Lines telling me that our children are well,
Relating my mother’s love and brother’s wife’s whine?

I wait. No letters. Not even paper-love rewards.
Chained to pulling green lumber all night, dragged
Through black sleepless nights, thoughts of
Your long green eyes, your face, blaze my mind.
My children’s voices cry/laugh through my dreams.
Enfeebled by endless greenchain shifts, I fear
A war, the years.

No passports yet? Fathom my heart’s great dukh. I watch.
Droves of birds fly away together, another winter.
Come before the war, come through Hong Kong and Yokohama.
Please let me know as soon as you can.
And I will send money to Moga
To bring you, the children, across the
The kala pani to Victoria.

Come soon. Before the war.
I’ll tell you what you need to bring:
Sweaters for the children, books,
Seeds, are hard to get. Bring yourself. Yourself,
And surma for your beautiful green eyes.

I am your beloved Inderpal Singh,
Who would spread flower petals for you,
And fly to you on feathers, if I could.

Graph by J. Price/Michelle Cox based on data from Statistics Canada; the BC Black History Awareness Society; Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West (p. 429) and other
published sources.
Graph by J. Price/Michelle Cox based on data from Statistics Canada; the BC Black History Awareness Society; Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West (p. 429) and other published sources.

In the aftermath of World War I, racist groups in BC, including the Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s committee on “Oriental Aggression” and the Asiatic Exclusion League, re-established with the support of the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council, exerted further pressure on the federal government to restrict Asian immigration. Groups such as the Chinese Labour Association, the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, the Chinese Canadian Association of Victoria, and community organizations from across Canada came together in the Chinese Association of Canada (T.C. Mark, president) to counter the racist campaign, sending a delegation to Ottawa to submit proposals for a more just immigration policy, to no avail.17 In 1923, the government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, replacing the head tax with a blanket ban on Chinese workers immigrating to Canada. Coming into effect on July 1, 1923, Chinese communities refused to celebrate Dominion Day, labelling it “humiliation day,” with businesses and communities shuttering their doors for the day.

In 1923 and 1928, further limits were placed on immigration from Japan. The only concession won in this period was a decision taken at the 1918 Imperial War Conference in London whereby the British dominions agreed to allow the wives and minor children of Indian men in Canada to enter, but only on ministerial permit, a small concession made out of fear for the growing independence movement in India at the time.18

Campaigns to support the war effort during World War II and the involvement of Asian Canadians in the armed forces opened cracks in the wall of white supremacy. With the war’s end, communities once again mobilized, resulting, in the case of the Chinese Canadian community, in the abolition of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1947.

However, racist immigration policies were still firmly entrenched as illustrated by the contrasting levels of support for postwar resettlement of Europeans versus those from Asia.19

Ruth Lor of the Chinese Canadian Association and Muriel Kitagawa of the National Japanese Canadian Citizens Association flank Eileen Fairclough, Minister of Immigration (centre), during lobbying effort, 1963. Library and Archives Canada, PA-117803.
Ruth Lor of the Chinese Canadian Association and Muriel Kitagawa of the National Japanese Canadian Citizens Association flank Eileen Fairclough, Minister of Immigration (centre), during lobbying effort, 1963. Library and Archives Canada, PA-117803.

The 1952 Immigration Act maintained the bias of previous years and discriminatory quotas were imposed on immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and other areas of the world. Organizations such as the Negro Citizenship Association, the Khalsa Diwan Association, the Chinese Canadian Association, and the Japanese Canadian Citizens Association protested the continuing restrictions on immigration.

Ruth Lor and Muriel Kitagawa

In 1963, Ruth Lor of the Chinese Canadian Association and Muriel Kitagawa of the National Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association worked together to end the racist immigration laws. Relations between Chinese and Japanese Canadians had been difficult during the war but afterward community leaders made efforts to reconcile and work together.

A family reunification program allowed a very few to enter from China but in 1960 the government launched a witch hunt for so-called illegal Chinese immigrants, a measure opposed by many in the Chinese Canadian community, including Douglas Jung, the first Chinese Canadian MP, and community leader, Wong Foon Sien.

Pressure for change also arose from the 1963 adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as well as from criticism of Canadian racist policies from the leaders of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Racialized communities, with support from allies and court cases, finally forced regulatory and policy changes that began to end the Eurocentric immigration and refugee policies that had dominated for nearly a century. The impact would be felt over the next fifty years as the demographics of BC shifted and increasing numbers of newcomers from Asia, including Filipinos, Koreans, and many from Southeast Asia and Persia, joined African and Hispanic Americans in coming to the province.

LITERARY MOMENT

Arriving and settling on distant lands can be hard, as captured in this 1969 poem by Florence Chia-Ying Yeh.

Alien Land (Vancouver, Fall 1969)

Frost descends on this alien land again –
the trees are all red;
adrift I am
even more than a year before
My original plan didn’t work out –
it’s difficult to explain – and now I’m like
a lone pillar trying to support
a house on a precarious slant
Do what you’re told –
to make a living swallow your pride –
beseeching strangers to give you shelter
leaves a sour taste I know
Before I came,
The fortune teller had told me so:
that I’d go to the end of the earth
and weep by the shore.20

Despite ongoing changes to immigration laws and regulation, the impact of the “whites only” immigration policies would endure. Systemic racism remained part of the provincial makeup, as illustrated by the outlandish reactions to the arrival of 600 undocumented Fujian migrants on BC’s shores in 1999,21 as well as to the Sri Lankan (Tamil) refugees that arrived in 2010.22 Today, domestic workers, undocumented workers, temporary foreign workers, and refugees continue to carry the burden of exclusion.

Marry Harry, Nora Wilson, Eva Wilson, and Louise Henshall at Redona Bay Cannery in 1942. Museum at Campbell River, 008386.
Marry Harry, Nora Wilson, Eva Wilson, and Louise Henshall at Redona Bay Cannery in 1942. Museum at Campbell River, 008386.

CULTURAL RESILIENCE
VS. EVERYDAY RACISM

Family ties, food, and cultural bonds allowed racialized peoples to create communities that were essential for surviving everyday racism and white supremacy.

Indigenous, Black and racialized people living in Canada have many identities, come from diverse backgrounds, work in many occupations, embrace various sexual orientations, and have a variety of family and community ties. This also held true in the past, though discriminatory legislation often proscribed where people could work. First Nations, Black, and Asian Canadians were hardworking people, whether homemakers or hunters, restaurateurs or domestics, cannery workers or fishers, lumber workers or market gardeners.23 Many became active in the labour movement, including the famed Vancouver Longshoremen Local 256 composed mainly of Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish members formed in 1906.24

Japanese Canadian fallers, Hillcrest Lumber - Sahtlam, Vancouver Island, circa 1940. Kaatza Station Museum, Wilmer Gold Collection.

Asian Canadians: Cheap Labour?

Asian Canadian workers have often been labelled as “cheap labour” and “strikebreakers”, but what was the reality?

“It is said that in 1919 the IWW [International Workers of the World] had as many Chinese as white members. The Chinese and whites went thru one very successful strike in the lumber mills together during this year at which time they got a very satisfactory increase in wages. In the next strike some unorganized whites walked in and took the jobs of the Chinese, since which time they have retired from the I.W.W. hall to the Chinese Labor Association on Pender St.”25

Many miners gave up their lives in the coalmines of Cumberland on Vancouver Island. The mortality statistics from the Cumberland Museum reveal the proportionately higher toll that Asian Canadian miners paid in explosions in the Dunsmuir mines, yet their sacrifice is seldom acknowledged:

  • 1901 | No. 6 Mine: 64 dead (35 Chinese, 9 Japanese, 20 White)
  • 1903 | No. 6 Mine: 15 dead (all Chinese)
  • 1922 | No. 4 Mine: 18 dead (9 Chinese, 6 Japanese, 3 White)
  • 1923 | No. 4 Mine: 35 dead (19 Chinese, 14 White)

Japanese Canadian workers were often excluded from mainstream unions so in 1920 they formed the Japanese Labour Union led by Etsu Suzuki. It later became the Camp and Mill Workers Union.

Grand opening of the Chinese Public School at 636 Fisgard Street on August 7, 1909. City of Victoria Archives M06930.
Grand opening of the Chinese Public School at 636 Fisgard Street on August 7, 1909. City of Victoria Archives M06930.

Chinese Canadians also organized across the Pacific, establishing the Chinese Empire Reform Association and an affiliated Chinese Empire Ladies’ Reform Association in Victoria in the early 1900s. Helping China become stronger was seen as a way to obtaining rights in Canada.

Diverse Nations and Asian Canadian communities each maintained cultural bonds and practices that allowed them to survive in the face of adversity. There were also examples of cross-community bonds of solidarity.

For Asian Canadians, cultural renewal took place through community language schools such as Lequn Yishu, a free public school in Victoria sponsored by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, or through private tutoring. The Japanese Language School in Vancouver was an important cultural centre and dozens of other Japanese language schools operated in Cumberland, Royston, Nanaimo, Chemainus, and elsewhere.

Families on the steps of the Khalsa Diwan Society gurdwara on 2nd Ave., Vancouver, 1920. Simon Fraser University Archives, ASC_0025-0001.
Families on the steps of the Khalsa Diwan Society gurdwara on 2nd Ave., Vancouver, 1920. Simon Fraser University Archives, ASC_0025-0001.

Khalsa Diwan Society

The Khalsa Diwan Society, founded on July 22, 1906, in Vancouver, brought together Sikh newcomers to build the first Canadian gurdwara (meaning “doorway/pathway to the guru”) at 1866 West 2nd in Vancouver. Because the population of South Asians of diverse backgrounds was minimal at the time, the gurdwara served as a safe space for activists, Hindus, and Muslims, in addition to Sikhs.

VIDEO:

Short documentaries by South Asian Studies Institute:

VIDEO:

“Solidarity Lives”:

In Paldi, near Duncan, BC, workers from varied cultural backgrounds, including Chinese, Japanese, European, and South Asians, lived and worked together. The children played and went to school together regardless of ethnicity. Each group preserved their traditions through worship, ceremony, and social events.

Not all communities in BC were European – the village of Paldi on Vancouver Island was home to a multiracial community as illustrated by the children attending the Mayo school there in 1934. Photo courtesy of Tomoko Okada.
Not all communities in BC were European – the village of Paldi on Vancouver Island was home to a multiracial community as illustrated by the children attending the Mayo school there in 1934. Photo courtesy of Tomoko Okada.

People shared food traditions in ceremony and in everyday occurrences. Chinese restaurants such as the Nam King Low in Nanaimo, and Chow’s Grocery in Duncan often welcomed First Nations peoples when white establishments would not serve them. When the roasting oven was operating in Cumberland, Chinese and Japanese community members eagerly awaited the freshly barbecued meats. The prevalence of Chinese chop suey houses is a testament to the familiarity of “Chinese cuisine” to one and all. The proximity of Chinese and Japanese “towns” led to adaptation of foods. Japanese Canadians who lived in Cumberland before being uprooted took with them the recipe and the memory of “Cumberland Chow Mein.” It can still be found in the cookbooks of the Kamloops Japanese Canadian Association and Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto.26

COMMUNITY RESOURCE

Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian & Aboriginal Potluck (Vancouver: Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC, 2014)

Changes to the Indian Act in 1927 led to the dissolution of the Allied Tribes. Ongoing immigration exclusions, described above, caused great distress among racialized communities as their numbers declined. Resistance went underground to some degree, but changes were also afoot. First Nations reorganized under the umbrella of the Native Brotherhood, and young Asian Canadians came together in the BC Youth Council.

Special ties developed between communities that faced discrimination on an everyday basis. Today, organizations such as the Pacific Canada Heritage Centre – Museum of Migration, Hogan’s Alley Society, the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall and many other cultural groups are coming together in the Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour project to gather and share the rich, multi-layered history of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods.

Joan Morris

Songhees Elder Joan Morris, speaking at the Robert Bateman Centre on November 7, 2016, said: “We bartered for seaweed, sea urchins, got big sacks of rice, whatever we didn’t have – baking powder, sugar, coffee, we exchanged for what you have. There used to be old Royal Café, my grandma, my selsila, would get a big platter of fried rice for a quarter, my great-grandma liked lemon pie... there was a shop on this side of the Royal Café, it was the Bluebird Cabs, there were two men there, very fine old men – Sam and Joe. My grandma liked dealing with Sam, he was an older guy, very gentle... In the back, my popii, the late Robert Sam, a lot of guys they skipped, eh, they went there for the pool, all of the boys went there for the pool, that was their hangout ...Why did we go there? It was because of such camaraderie between the Chinese nation and ours, plus you knew what you were getting for food.”

Vivian Jung

Vivian Jung’s experience of being denied entry to Crystal Pool in 1945 speaks to a common daily occurrence of exclusion that many Chinese, Black, and other racialized people faced in public spaces. A teacher in training at the time, she and her classmates went to the pool for lifesaver training as part of their program, but Vivian was denied entry. Her instructor and classmates protested the unfair treatment until the colour bar at this public pool fell. Vivian went on to obtain her lifesaving and teaching credentials and later became the Vancouver School Board’s first Chinese Canadian teacher.27

Japanese Canadian, Chinese Canadian, South Asian, and European youth gather for photo at provincial youth congress, 1940. John Bong, New Canadian.
Japanese Canadian, Chinese Canadian, South Asian, and European youth gather for photo at provincial youth congress, 1940. John Bong, New Canadian.
Songhees Elder Joan Morris, speaking at Robert Bateman Centre, November, 2016. Photo by Jeff Tanaka.
Songhees Elder Joan Morris, speaking at Robert Bateman Centre, November, 2016. Photo by Jeff Tanaka.
Vivian Jung. Photo courtesy Cynthia Kent.
Vivian Jung. Photo courtesy Cynthia Kent.


HSA Workplace Survey Report

Confronting Racism with Solidarity:
An Analysis of the 2020 HSA Workplace Survey

The Health Science Association, a provincial union of health care professionals, last year took the initiative to survey its members from Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities about racial harassment, discrimination, and workplace culture. It also asked them about their experiences with the union to determine how the union could improve its work and deepen its commitment to racial justice in the workplace and beyond. The fascinating and instructive results of this important initiative have been published recently in Confronting Racism With Solidarity: An Analysis of the 2020 HSA Workplace Survey.

  1. What specific policies were implemented in an effort to create a “White British Columbia”?
  2. What role does art, culture, and community play in building resilience and resisting White supremacy?
  3. What are the changes and continuities between Canada’s past and present treatment of racialized labour?

ENDNOTES

1 “On Trial,” The Daily Colonist, September 18, 1878, 2.

2 Tai Sing v. Maguire (1878), 1 BCR Pt. 1 101 (SC), accessed December 15, 2020, bit.ly/3hyWyK7

3 The Ties That Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada, accessed December 15, 2020, bit.ly/2L4udPE

4 For a government-compiled list of discriminatory legislation, see Canada, British Columbia, Discriminatory Legislation in British Columbia, 1872–1848, accessed May 30, 2017, bit.ly/BC-1872-1948

5 On early arrivals from South Asia, see Sikh Heritage Museum, canadiansikhheritage.ca. See also South Asian Canadian Historical Sites, bit.ly/3hqjtHz

6 Canada. Report of the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration: Report and Evidence (Ottawa: Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration, 1885), vii.

7 Lily Siewsan Chow, Blood and Sweat over the Railway Tracks (Vancouver: Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC and UBC INSTRCC, 2014).

8 See Jean Barman, “Beyond Chinatown: Chinese Men and Indigenous Women in Early British Columbia,” BC Studies 177 (Spring 2013): 39–64; and Lily Chow, Blossoms in the Gold Mountains (Prince George, BC: Caitlin Press, 2018).

9 See also Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC, Cedar and Bamboo, accessed December 15, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io19r8vQOQ8; and Alejandro Yoshizawa and Sarah Ling, All Our Father’s Relations, accessed December 15, 2020, bit.ly/3mYxZr1

10 Canada, Report of the Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration (Ottawa: S.E. Dawson, 1902).

11 Gim Wong’s 2005 Ride for Redress, December 15, 2020, vimeo.com/461527211

12 See the court decision in Re Nakane and Okazake (1908), 13 BCR 370 (SC), accessed June 9, 2017, bit.ly/3hspd3l. See also Bamboo Shoots: Chinese Canadian Legacies in BC, accessed December 15, 2020, openschool.bc.ca/bambooshoots

13 An Act to Amend the Immigration Act, 1908, SC 7–8 Edward VII, c. 33.

14 Komagata Maru: Continuing the Journey, accessed December 15, 2020, komagatamarujourney.ca

15 Hugh J.M. Johnston, The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018), 87–88.

16 Neilesh Bose, “Taraknath Das (1884–1958): British Columbia and the Anti-Colonial Borderlands,” BC Studies 204 (Winter 2019/20): 67–88.

17 See Wickberg et al., From China to Canada, 138–44.

18 See “Imperial War Conference, 24 July 1918,” in A. Berriedale Keith, ed., Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy 1750–1921, vol. II (London: Oxford University Press, 1922), 134–51.

19 See Laura Madokoro, Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

20 Florence Chia-Ying Yeh, Ode to the Lotus (Vancouver: SUCCESS, 2007), 79.

21 Sean P. Hier and Joshua L. Greenberg, “Constructing a Discursive Crisis: Risk, Problematization and Illegal Chinese in Canada,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 25, no. 3 (May 2002): 490-513.

22 See David Moffette and Nevena Aksin, “Fighting Human Smuggling or Criminalizing Refugees? Regimes of Justification in and around R v Appulonappa,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 33, no. 1 (2018): 21–39.

23 Rod Mickleburgh, On the Line: A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2018), includes much more material on Indigenous, Black, and Asian Canadian labour than any such work in the past.

24 Mickleburgh, On the Line, 41.

25 “Testimonial Meeting on the Oriental,” IWW Hall, Cordova Street, March 4, 1924, Survey on Race Relations (Box/Folder 24, Interview 16), 4.

26 Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian and Aboriginal Potluck (Vancouver: Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC, 2014).

27 Henry Yu, Journeys of Hope: Challenging Discrimination and Building on Vancouver Chinatown’s Legacies (Vancouver: WePress, 2018), x.