Vancouver City Council apologizes to Chinese community for past discrimination

Gregor Robertson
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

VANCOUVER City Council on Sunday delivered a formal apology for historical discrimination of Chinese residents in Vancouver to an audience of more than 500 people at the Chinese Cultural Centre, and hundreds more viewing on screens along Keefer Street.

The apology publically acknowledged past legislation, regulations and policies of previous Vancouver City Councils that discriminated against residents of Chinese descent, along with clear references to key past events and actions of discrimination.

“This is an important day for Council and all Vancouverites to come together and recognize historical wrongdoings committed against Chinese people and to build a better future together,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “I am honoured to deliver this apology in front of the many hundreds of people who have gathered here at the Chinese Cultural Centre and on the nearby streets of Chinatown- it’s a powerful reminder of how important this apology is for Vancouver as a City of Reconciliation. I’d like to thank everyone who helped to make this day happen, we couldn’t have done it without guidance from our Advisory Group and the many tireless community leaders and advocates.”

Robertson read the apology in English, and former Vancouver City councillors Maggie Ip and Bill Yee read the apology in Cantonese and Sze Yup dialect. Three community members – war veteran George Ing, Chinese Benevolent Association President Hilbert Yiu, and youth speaker Melody P. Choi – also provided remarks about the importance of the apology to their community.

The formal apology was part of a larger Chinatown Cultural Day event which saw hundreds of Vancouverites enjoying Chinese culture through a variety of activities including: tai chi demonstrations, calligraphy and brush painting demonstrations, lantern display, traditional lion dance lessons, street food stalls, free admission to the Dr. Sun Yet Sen Garden and Chinese Cultural Centre museum, and much more.

The formal apology and Chinatown Cultural Day event were guided by an Advisory Group of Chinese and non-Chinese experts and community leaders. The Advisory Group is comprised of retired judges, former City Councillors, community elders and advocates, historians, and veterans and their descendants, all of who are active volunteers that share an interest in working with the City to move forward together.

The formal apology for past discrimination reaffirms Vancouver as a city of reconciliation in which diverse communities can share and learn from the past, collectively address current challenges and plan for a better future for all.