Thousands protested in Victoria following the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)

Thousands protested in Victoria following the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C. is not exempt: New report documents 150 years of racism and the fight against it

Booklet marks province’s 150th anniversary with call for transparency, change

A new open source publication documents B.C.’s history in a manner rarely seen before – one that comprehensively describes the racism Black, Indigenous and racialized groups have faced and fought against for nearly 150 years.

Purposefully released months before the province’s anniversary, the authors of the 80-page illustrated booklet titled Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting, hope to localize conversations around racism and white supremacy, which they say are too often brushed off as a “them” problem.

The publication dives into a history the majority of British Columbians were never taught and even students today only learn snippets of. It also calls into question the name of the province itself.

“Does the term ‘British Columbia’, named after a colonizing empire and Christopher Columbus, not embody and project the history of racism in this province?” the authors ask.

RELATED: Wave of racist emails ‘unleashed’ on B.C. researchers investigating racism in health care

While many people may know about some of B.C.’s history regarding residential schools or Japanese internment camps, the report also brings to light far lesser known realities.

Few people may know, for example, that even for decades after B.C. was colonized, the majority of the population was non-white, and that this only changed when the B.C. government forced racialized communities out. Indigenous people were forced onto reserves, Chinese immigrants were charged a head tax before being outright banned and Japanese Canadians were exiled. For those who weren’t overtly forced out, the stripping of rights and culture and everyday racism were enough to make them want to leave.

(Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting/Screenshot)

In 1861, performer Emil Sutro is quoted in the newspaper refusing to go on stage because “coloureds” were in the front row, saying: “They are not desired, and are furthermore offensive to a majority of the residents of Victoria.”

Written by a number of prominent academics and activists, the new report does more than recount racism. It also documents the fight against it, all the way up to the last couple of years of Wet’suwet’en land defence and Black Lives Matter movements.

RELATED: PHOTOS: Thousands attend rally for Black lives in downtown Victoria

“This book offers a bold, honest, historical correction to the false narrative that Canada is exempt from white supremacy and racist nation state formations,” Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, author and coordinator of Simon Fraser University’s South Asian Studies Institute said. “And for that reason, this book is the exact resource needed in this pivotal moment where an anti-racist movement continues to take shape. It is a resource for activists, students, educators, community professionals — it is a resource for all.”

The report’s other authors include Nicholas XEMTOLTW Claxton, Denise Fong, Fran Morrison, Christine O’Bonsawin, Maryka Omatsu and John Price.

Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting is available at challengeracistbc.ca, and an enhanced digital edition and 20-minute video are expected this spring.

RELATED: Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

British Columbiaracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police officers were one group of dozens that submitted dance clips to the Greater Victoria Festival Society, to help create the Dance Across Victoria video montage. (Youtube/Screenshot)
WATCH: Saanich police, Victoria mayor bust some moves in new Dance Across Victoria video

Montage features submitted dance clips from across Greater Victoria

Former Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Brandon Kip plays the $100,000 Steinway piano in the Dave Dunnet Theatre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay High Alumni Association passes torch to new president

The association has given back more than $70,000 in its 16 years

Saanich’s Malia Brodie competed in the Vancouver qualifiers for the 2020 National Championships. (Photo by BC Sport Karate Snaps)
PHOTOS: Saanich teen awarded $1,800 Karate Canada bursary to pursue officiant certification

Malia Brodie, 18, has black belt, nearly 15 years experience in karate

This photo courtesy of Leanne Grover shows the immediate aftermath of the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents. (Leanne Grover/Submitted)
Residents of a Central Saanich duplex ‘fortunate’ to escape Sunday morning fire

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

After more than a year, open forums will resume at a Saanich committee of the whole meeting on April 19 with up to five residents having the chance to speak for three minutes each about any district-related matter. (Black Press Media file photo)
Public input resumes at Saanich council following lengthy suspension due to pandemic

Up to five residents can present by phone for up to three minutes starting April 19

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read