Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

A Legacy of Prejudice

Mar 30, 2021

Vancouver's Chinatown in 1906. (Courtesy Vancouver Public Library 5240)

The epidemic, and more recently the horrible murders in Atlanta, have focussed attention on the corrosive impact of anti-Asian prejudice and discrimination. Most Vancouverites are aware of the city's long history of discrimination against its Japanese, Chinese and South Asian residents. Unable to vote, denied jobs, kept out of most neighbourhoods, they were victimized by an extensive system of legalized racism for many years.

The vote came in 1947 and other changes followed. This may seem like a long time ago. Vancouver is definitely a different city. But all of the changes came within my lifetime, so not so long ago. And stories of how people of Asian background have been experiencing racist attacks during the pandemic show the rest of us that this issue is a long way from being resolved.

Vancouverites may not be aware that a few years ago the city commissioned a history of this sorry subject, at least as regards the Chinese-Canadian population. It resulted in a detailed report that was accepted by council in 2017 and formed the background to an official apology by the city for its discriminatory behaviour against local Chinese Canadians.

There is no better time to read the report, which is available online here.