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Booklet weaves together history and present day anti-racist work during province’s 150th year

The 150th anniversary of British Columbia joining Canada arrives at a time when people and institutions are being asked to reckon with the foundational impacts of racism in our society. Challenging Racist British Columbia: 150 Years and Counting, is a new publication examining the long history of racist policies that have impacted Indigenous, Black and racialized communities in the province over those 150 years, tying those histories to present day anti-racist movements. 

Co-authored by Nicholas XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton, Denise Fong, Fran Morrison, Christine O’Bonsawin, Maryka Omatsu, John Price and Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, the 80-page, illustrated booklet is being released in advance of the 150th anniversary, which is on July 20, 2021. This engaging resource has been designed to assist anti-racist educators, teachers, scholars, policymakers and individuals doing anti-racism work to help pierce the silences that too often have let racism grow in our communities, corporations and governments. 

The booklet’s publication comes at the end of Black History Month and amidst ongoing necessary conversations about anti-racism in our province. Sylvia Mangue Alene, President of the BC Black History Awareness Society says of the resource, “challenge starts by asking yourself what needs to be challenged. In this booklet subjects have answered in a very clear way what needs to be challenged and that is racism, racism is challenged because we believe that there are better ways to treat people and that is with respect and inclusiveness in all aspects that life has to offer.” 

The resource documents how current cycles of activism — from local actions in the Black Lives Matter movement, to the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continuing to assert title over their traditional territories, to the Japanese Canadian Community’s current negotiations with the BC government for redress for the province’s role in the ethnic cleansing and dispossession of the community, as well as ongoing community responses to anti-Asian racism that has been heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic — are all a part of a broader story of Indigenous, Black and racialized communities challenging white supremacy on these lands. The material covers different stories from 1871, when BC joined Canada, to the present. 

This resource will be available as a free pdf download on the project website beginning on February 25. An enhanced, interactive digital edition, providing direct access to primary and community-based sources, and a 20-minute video will follow this spring. 

The booklet is co-published 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 cover was designed by John Endo Greenaway, using the work titled Flight through the Four Winds by Sanford Williams.

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