Historical discrimination against Chinese people
By City of Vancouver
Vancouver residents of Chinese descent in the early days 早期的華裔溫哥華居民
By City of Vancouver
Council and community leaders with apology text 市議會議員與社區領袖展示道歉文本
By City of Vancouver
Official apology for historical discrimination delivered at special City Council Meeting in Chinatown
On April 22, 2018, Vancouver City Council convened a special meeting in Chinatown where Mayor Gregor Robertson delivered a formal apology on behalf of the City of Vancouver for past discrimination against residents of Chinese descent.
The apology acknowledged the wrongdoings of past legislation, regulations, and policies of previous Vancouver City Councils. The special Council Meeting was attended by over 500 members of the Chinese community, with hundreds more who watched the event on a screen at the Keefer Street Memorial Square.
For the first sixty years of the City of Vancouver’s history, racial prejudice and discrimination against Chinese people was commonplace. Through City Council motions, bylaws and other restrictive measures, the Chinese community suffered the painful consequences of lawful discrimination.
City Council in 2014 passed a motion directing staff to conduct research into discriminatory laws, regulations, and policies in place in the city between 1886 and 1947.
Between 2015 and 2016, City staff carried out preliminary research and initial consultations with local historians and other people with lived experience and knowledge of the issues.
Four areas of historical discrimination against Chinese residents in Vancouver were identified during the research and consultations:
- Voting rights and citizenship
- Exclusion from immigration
- Restricting livelihoods in the areas of industry, business, and labour
- Segregation in housing and public spaces
In 2017, an Advisory Group comprised of retired judges, former City Councillors, community elders and advocates, historians, veterans and their descendants was formed to guide a process of public consultation and recommend next steps.
The City also held several community forums in May to inform interested public and stakeholders on the preliminary research findings, to gather feedback on potential steps and actions in support of reconciliation and to prevent discrimination from taking root in the future.
A final report (3 MB), which was adopted by City Council in November 2017, included the following recommendations:
- Acknowledge past discrimination and offer of a formal apology
- Strengthen relations with the Chinese Canadian community through a range of legacy actions to raise awareness of the historical discrimination towards the Chinese and give life and sustenance to the apology. The three recommended legacy action areas are:
- Initiate and sustain the legacy: to establish a Legacy Working Group to oversee the implementation of the proposed actions
- Educate and outreach: to reach out and engage both Chinese and non-Chinese residents in this process through education, dialogue and stronger social and cultural programming
- To conserve, commemorate and enhance the living cultural heritage and assets of Chinatown by: a) initiating a process towards a UNESCO World Heritage designation for Chinatown; b) creating a Cultural Heritage Asset Management Plan to support the UNESCO process.
City staff concluded in their report that the Historical Discrimination against Chinese (HDC) initiative has identified new ideas and actions which the City the community can work on together in support of building stronger and more resilient communities.
To this end and in support of the City’s efforts as a City of Reconciliation, a dedicated Chinatown Transformation Team has been formed to work with community stakeholders to help create a strategy that focuses on protecting and enhancing Chinatown’s living heritage and cultural assets.
A Chinatown Transformation Team made up of City staff was created to support and develop a long-term Chinatown Living Heritage and Cultural Asset Management Plan.
An official apology was delivered at a special Council meeting by the City of Vancouver to the local Chinese-Canadian community; on the same day, a special event was organized for Vancouverites to experience Chinatown and Chinese culture.
Research on discrimination by City Hall from 1886 to 1947 completed and staff recommendations presented to City Council.
2015 – 2016
Completed initial consultations with local historians and people with lived experience and knowledge of historical discrimination.
Council instructed staff to explore past discriminatory practices against people of Chinese descent between 1886 and 1947.