2017 Legislative Session: Sixth Session, 40th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Monday, March 13, 2017
Volume 43, Number 7
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Introductions by Members
Firefighter Medal of Bravery recipient Kit Little
Hon. N. Yamamoto
Introductions by Members
Brentwood College School basketball champions
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill 4 — Election Amendment Act, 2017
Hon. S. Anton
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
Protections for renters
S. Chandra Herbert
Shushma Datt and campaign against racism
50th anniversary of Rotary Club of Coquitlam
Contributions of immigrants and refugees
Election campaign financing reform
Hon. S. Anton
Hon. C. Clark
Loan for condo presales marketing campaign and role of fundraiser
Hon. R. Coleman
Election campaign financing reform
Hon. C. Clark
Public Service Benefit Plan Act, annual report for year ending March 31, 2016
Orders of the Day
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 3 — Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act (continued)
Hon. N. Letnick
Hon. C. Oakes
Hon. T. Wat
MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017
The House met at 1:35 p.m.
[Madame Speaker in the chair.]
Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, I have the privilege of conveying a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in recognition of Commonwealth Day, 2017. It’s entitled “Celebrating a Peace-Building Commonwealth.”
“This Commonwealth Day a baton will set out from Buckingham Palace and begin a long and extraordinary journey. Over the next 12 months, the baton will visit people living in the nations and territories of our Commonwealth, in every continent and ocean. Carried on its way by thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds, by the time it reaches its final destination, the Queen’s baton will have brought together, through its route and symbolism, almost 2.5 billion people who share the special connection of being Commonwealth citizens.
“Contained within the baton will be a written message that will be opened and read at the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year. However, there is an even more powerful message to be seen and experienced as the baton passes from hand to hand, from seashore to mountaintop, through cities, towns and villages. It is the message of a peace-building Commonwealth.
“The cornerstones on which peace are founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together, we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community. By upholding justice and the rule of law and by striving for societies that are fair and offer opportunities for all, we overcome division and find reconciliation so that the benefits of progress and prosperity may be multiplied and shared.
“As members of the Commonwealth family, we can find much to be thankful for in the inheritance we received from those who came before us. Through consensus and cooperation, great things have been achieved. We can find further reward and fulfilment by continuing to collaborate with others in a spirit of goodwill to build a peaceful and abundant future for all Commonwealth citizens.”
Members, I draw your attention to the fact that the Royal Union flag, known as the Union Jack, is being flown on the precinct today from sunrise to sunset.
Thank you for your attention.
Introductions by Members
J. Horgan: It’s with great pleasure that I have two introductions to make today.
Firstly, Rugby Canada, headquartered in Langford, British Columbia, has announced the Rugby Europe Under-18 Open Championship team for this year’s championship in France starting next month. Ten of the players named today were from British Columbia; one only from Langford. That was Julian Foggitt, who’s going to be travelling from my constituency to France next month. I wish him all the best, and I know my colleagues do as well.
The other introduction has a flavour of the Legislature here and, in fact, our proceedings today. The Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association PeeWee C3s wrapped up their season with a double banner victory at The Q Centre in Colwood. They won the league championship after starting with…. I think it was successive defeats was how it was put to me, but they managed to rally and win the league title.
Then of course, on the weekend they won the south Island championship — led by coaches Rick Laurie, John Madsen, Ed Boudreau, and head coach and Hansard Services employee Ian Battle, who was very proud of his C3 Grizzlies. The boys and girls on that team grew as players. They grew as people, and they are to be commended by this House.
On behalf of, certainly, this side: Ian, to your team, well done.
J. Tegart: I’m pleased to introduce two constituents of mine from Merritt. Peter and Gail Moyes are Merritt business owners, proud parents and grandparents, and active in the community on many initiatives. They’ve been recognized for their public service, and they’re visiting the precinct today.
Please join me in welcoming them to Victoria.
V. Huntington: I’m extremely pleased to be able to introduce Ralph and Sue Towsley today, who are visiting the precinct and my office. I wish the House to make them very welcome.
FIREFIGHTER MEDAL OF BRAVERY
RECIPIENT KIT LITTLE
Hon. N. Yamamoto: Today I have the great pleasure of introducing a real-life hero.
Each day in our province, firefighters risk their lives in order to help others. On rare occasions, firefighters show courage beyond what could be reasonable expected of them.
On the morning of July 18, 2016, firefighting crews from both the city of North Vancouver and the district of North Vancouver responded to a raging apartment fire. The fire was too extreme to enter the hallways, so crews instead used ladders to reach the balconies. Regrettably, fire trucks weren’t able to get up close to the building because of overhead wires and transformers. One of these firefighters, Capt. Kit Little, who is joining us today, went up these ladders to attempt to rescue an elderly woman.
When it became apparent to Captain Little that his equipment was preventing a successful rescue, he made the difficult decision to remove some of his equipment
[ Page 14270 ]
to reach the trapped senior. While standing on the top rung of his ladder, Captain Little — all 6 feet 4 inches of him — reached over the balcony, grabbed the woman and then carried her down the ladder safely to the other firefighters on the scene. Then he returned to the balcony and rescued the woman’s dog.
This morning, along with our province’s fire commissioner, Gordon Anderson, I had the great honour to present Captain Little with the British Columbia firefighter Medal of Bravery. This medal is a great and extremely rare honour. Only two such awards have been presented in the past ten years, one in 2011 and one in 2014.
Supporting Captain Little today are members of his fire department, as well as his mother, Ethel Little, his partner, Anita Trip, his sons James and Lucas, his cousin Jim Gusa and his wife, Shiba, and their son Josh.
Could the House please show our deep appreciation and respect to Captain Little, British Columbia’s firefighter Medal of Bravery recipient and make him and his family feel very welcome.
Introductions by Members
L. Popham: Last night at the Save-On-Foods arena, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Elton John concert. While I was there, I ran smack dab into Mr. Corry Spitters and his lovely wife, Svetlana. Corry Spitters and his family are the owners of Oranya Farms. They are the largest certified organic producers of chicken in Canada.
Thank you for everything you do for agriculture in B.C.
Hon. S. Bond: In British Columbia, our aerospace industry is an important sector, part of a growing and strong economy. We are very pleased, in British Columbia, to be the only province that has a dedicated branch of the national Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, as result of a partnership that we’ve created.
Today I would like to ask members of the House to welcome three representatives who are here today. We’re very proud of the work that they continue to do here in our province. Please welcome AIAC president and CEO, Jim Quick, Taylor Briggs and Mike Mueller.
R. Fleming: Joining us in the House today is my constituent Dorothy Johnson and her daughter Cassandra Corolenko, who is visiting us from Thunder Bay, Ontario, which the Weather Channel tells me has warmed up to a nice minus 17 degrees Celsius today. So welcome to spring in Victoria.
They are joined by Dorothy’s granddaughter, who is a future Broadway, or perhaps silver screen, star, Lucy Sherlock, who is fresh from her turn in the Reynolds Secondary School much-acclaimed production of Guys and Dolls. I would ask that the House please make all of these guests who are with us welcome here today.
BRENTWOOD COLLEGE SCHOOL
E. Foster: This past Saturday was championship Saturday in the world of B.C. High School Boys Basketball. This year’s 2A champion is Brentwood College School from Mill Bay, prevailing in the finals by a score of 54-44 over St. Michaels University School.
I would like to congratulate championship player of the game, Brendan Sullivan; most outstanding defensive player, Aaron Shulga; the most valuable player, Bruno Chan; and head coach Blake Gage; and the rest of the team on their successful season.
I would also like to mention another player on this team, Cole Hickey. He happens to be the son of my cousin Jane Hickey and her husband, Thompson. I’m sure his mom and dad are very proud.
Would the House please join me in congratulating Brentwood College School.
Introductions by Members
M. Mark: I’d like the House to please join me in welcoming my good friend Jean Skilling, an avid rugby fan, and my cousin Pam Russ, the daughter of the late Jake Russ, the Chief of our house, the House of Luuya’as, with the village of Laxgalts’ap, from the Nisga’a Nation — also the one and only aboriginal nations district councillor for the Victoria school district. I’m so happy that they’re in the House. Would the House please join me in welcoming my cousin Pam and Jean.
Hon. S. Thomson: We often have the opportunity to stand up and introduce our friends who are visiting us here today, so I’d like today to introduce my best friend who is here today, my wife, Brenda, and thank her, the long-suffering, ever-patient supporter. I’d ask the House to please make her very welcome today.
M. Dalton: I’d like to pay tribute to an amazing man who has had a greater impact upon me than anyone else that I know. Peter Arthur Villeneuve Dalton passed Tuesday morning, March 7, surrounded by family at the Shuswap Lake Hospital in Salmon Arm. I want to thank the nurses and physicians for their excellent medical services.
Dad served in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 37 years, joining during the Korean War, and went up through the ranks, retiring as a captain. He was sta-
[ Page 14271 ]
tioned on bases across the country and abroad, including Chibougamau and Valcartier, Quebec; Beaverlodge, Cold Lake and Penhold, Alberta; Holberg, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island; Lahr and Baden-Soellingen, where I was born, in Germany; and on peacekeeping missions in Egypt, Cyprus and the Golan Heights. He was well respected by those under his command and fellow officers.
Dad was a member of Métis Nation B.C. and volunteered with search and rescue teams for decades. His mother, Matilde, spoke Cree, French and English and gave Dad his first rifle at six years of age.
He was a skilled woodsman. Years ago, when we were approaching the year 2000, Y2K, and there was widespread concern about computer systems crashing across the word, my little sister Michelle asked him how he was preparing for it. He put his hand in the pocket, showed her an object and said: “My trusty knife.”
Dad is survived by six children, 20 grandchildren and his loving wife, Mama Cleo Jones, in Enderby. We are grateful for the years we had with him and miss him dearly.
First Reading of Bills
BILL 4 — ELECTION
AMENDMENT ACT, 2017
Hon. S. Anton presented a message from His Honour the Administrator: a bill intituled Election Amendment Act, 2017.
Hon. S. Anton: I move that the bill be introduced and read for the first time now.
Hon. S. Anton: I’m pleased to introduce the Election Amendment Act, 2017. This bill will introduce real-time disclosure of political contributions in British Columbia and create new requirements for reporting contributions from fundraising functions.
The bill will lower the threshold for reporting political contributions from the current $250 to $100. It will also require major provincial political parties, candidates and constituency associations to disclose contributions to Election B.C. within 14 days of those contributions being deposited. Exceptions are made for smaller political parties and independent candidates that do not raise significant funds.
The Chief Electoral Officer will be required to publish reported contributions as soon as practical. Monetary penalties will be assessed for late or missed filing of contribution reports, up to the total value of the contribution that was not reported.
The bill will also place new restrictions on fundraising functions by major parties. Additional reporting will be required in order to clarify in real time the source of contributions from ticket purchase or sponsorship over $100 and the specific functions at which they were contributed.
Together, these amendments will add another significant level of transparency and timeliness to our election finance rules.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading of the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 4, Election Amendment Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
G. Kyllo: The technology sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in B.C., employing more than 100,000 people and adding almost $14 billion to our provincial GDP.
A critical component to the success of the B.C. tech industry is ensuring that we have the talent available for start-ups to develop and for large companies to thrive. That is why our government has officially proclaimed the week of March 13 to 17 as Technology Skills Appreciation Week. This week recognizes the impact of employers, educators and workers who use their technology skills every day to keep our economy diverse, strong and growing.
Employers like Mike Boudreau of Technology Brewing in Salmon Arm, with a small team of electrical, mechatronic and robotics engineers and technologists, are providing solutions to their customers’ difficult automation needs. B.C.’s aerospace industry continues to be a key sector in our province, and we’re proud to help these innovative companies grow and create high-paying, high-skilled jobs right here in B.C.
B.C. is also the only Canadian province to have a dedicated branch of the national Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, the AIAC Pacific. Joining us today is Jim Quick, president of the AIAC, joined by Mike Mueller and Taylor Briggs of the AIAC Pacific division.
B.C.’s aerospace industry is made up of approximately 190 companies, most of them small and medium-sized enterprises, generating annual revenues of $2.4 billion and direct GDP of $1.3 billion while employing 8,300 British Columbians directly.
Technology Skills Appreciation Week is a key part of the B.C. tech strategy, aimed to deepen the province’s technology talent pool. Highlighting Technology Skills Appreciation Week is the B.C. Tech Summit tomorrow and Wednesday at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
[ Page 14272 ]
More than 5,000 participants are expected for this two-day showcase of made-in-B.C. technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
PROTECTIONS FOR RENTERS
S. Chandra Herbert: Renovictions, demovictions, greed evictions, fixed-term leases, not to mention geographic area increases, harassment, faking landlord use of property, phony permits to evict and more. We are having a rental crisis in this province, and unfortunately, some landlords are using that to abuse the law and force people from the home just so that they can make more money. With vacancy rates of 0.8 percent and with the fact that one in four people in Vancouver are paying more than half their income towards rent, we know that there is a crisis.
Fellow MLAs in this House, we need to listen up. Report after report after report has demonstrated this crisis. Press conference after press conference after press conference has shown that there is a problem. While solutions are mouthed, action is not taken.
Yesterday I stood with constituents who are facing attempted 46 percent rent increases. I would ask members of this House: if their rent increased 46 percent, could they handle it? But you know what? Almost none of us in the House rent, very few, and it shows. While homeowners are talked about as the great, great dream of everyone, as the great one that we should all be, renters are often looked at as second-class citizens. One’s ignored. One’s told, “Well, you should get a better job” or “You should move to the north” or “Don’t worry. Our housing strategy is a success.”
Well, it’s not working for renters. Renters are getting pushed out of their homes, and they’re finding that they can’t make it anymore. We need real action to stand up for renters. We need laws that actually work. We need penalties so that if somebody breaks the law, they’re actually fined, because right now, it’s the cost of doing business. If you get caught, you get your money back. That doesn’t work for renters. We need action for renters now.
J. Thornthwaite: I’m going to use my last two-minute statement to talk about something I rarely talk about: film. My colleagues who live in communities supported by natural resource industries often speak to the indirect and direct economic benefits of these industries across the province. The same is true with B.C. film.
In B.C., there are 60 studio facilities that support over 45 productions all at once, all across this great province. Warner Brothers’ Supernatural, filmed in B.C. over 11 seasons, has supported over 9,000 full-time jobs and is responsible for over $500 million in direct production expenditures.
For season four alone, Arrow’s production spent $44 million on crew and labour, $30 million on goods and services and employs over 7,000 people. So 825 businesses in 31 communities benefited from the production of Arrow, including special effects companies; large production facilities; hotels; dry cleaners; small, local retailers; restaurants and catering businesses.
Netflix’s Altered Carbon, which opened up Skydance Studios in Surrey last year, employs 400 people and has injected $100 million into the local economy. That’s expected to go for eight years.
The district of North Vancouver hosted 122 TV, movie and commercial productions in 2016 that brought in $643,000 in fees for general revenues. The two largest payroll companies that work for the film industry reported $79 million in wages paid to workers with addresses in North Vancouver alone, with the city having the highest per-capita number of film workers in the province.
Here’s the kicker. In West Kelowna, Gorman Bros. mill provides wood for four out of the five major movie producers in North America, and almost every show or movie filmed in Canada uses Gorman Bros. wood. Wood from the Okanagan goes national on film. Let’s congratulate B.C. film.
SHUSHMA DATT AND
CAMPAIGN AGAINST RACISM
H. Bains: Raise Your Hands Against Racism launched on Martin Luther King Day in 2015. This anti-racism campaign is in its third year. Hands up against racism was built on a message of hope and commitment. They encourage people to take selfies with their hands raised as a pledge and a reminder to stand against racial injustice in all forms.
In the third year of the campaign, they’re asking Canadians to engage in conversation and renew their commitment to tolerance and respect for diversity. Last Saturday, the campaign honoured well-known UBC professor Sunera Thobani for her human rights work.
Shushma Datt, founder of Spice Radio, was born in Kenya. She received her university degree at the university of New Delhi and moved to London, where she worked as a broadcaster with the BBC.
When she moved to Vancouver in the ’70s, she started her own ethnic radio and TV programs. She was the first woman to broadcast in Hindi and Punjabi, and she frequently held conversations on racism and discrimination. Later she became the first Indo-Canadian woman to get a radio broadcast licence from the CRTC.
Encouraged by the anti-bullying campaign Pink Shirt Day, Shushma and her friends wanted to create awareness around racial injustice, and also inspired by the celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival known as the festival of love and equality, where colourful powder is thrown
[ Page 14273 ]
everywhere. When everyone is dusted with bright, vibrant colours, we’re all considered equal.
It is an honour for me to stand in this House and praise a campaign that is gaining momentum and really making a difference in our society. I would like to send a heartfelt thank-you to Shushma Datt and her team. Keep up the good work.
Everyone in this House — I think you can do this — please raise your hand against racism, and happy Holi to all of you.
50th ANNIVERSARY OF
ROTARY CLUB OF COQUITLAM
L. Reimer: Communities shine bright when their members adopt an attitude of selflessness. In my community, the Rotary Club of Coquitlam is a wonderful example of this life principle.
This month celebrates the 50th anniversary of the club. First chartered in March of 1967, it is the first and the oldest Rotary Club in the Tri-Cities and one of nearly 33,000 Rotary service clubs in over 200 countries. The membership of the Rotary Club of Coquitlam is composed of businesses and professional individuals who are guided by the Rotary motto: “Service above self.” It has been led by wonderfully community-minded individuals.
Members support the needs of local seniors. They support organizations such as ACCESS Youth Outreach. They send kids to Camp Jubilee and Adventures in Citizenship, and they serve the underprivileged in the Tri-Cities with Christmas hampers, including turkeys. They’ve also initiated relief support in areas of the world such as Thailand, Mexico, Africa and, most recently, in Peru.
Many members in the club are Paul Harris award recipients, and the partnerships Rotary International has had have reduced polio by 99 percent since Rotary’s first project in 1979 to vaccinate children in the Philippines. Other assistance provided has been to those with MS, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.
I would especially like to recognize club founding members Ken Webber and Gary Crews for their 50 years of service to Rotary. As a small appreciation for their commitment, the Rotary Club of Coquitlam has honoured Ken and Gary with honorary lifetime memberships.
On that note, I would like to ask the House to join me in congratulating the inspirational Rotary Club of Coquitlam on their 50th anniversary. We are thankful for their tireless and selfless service to the people of Coquitlam and around the world.
IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
D. Routley: I am proud to stand and speak about the thousands of new residents of Canada who have come as refugees and immigrants. Canada is an oasis to those fleeing oppression or war. We are all, if we are not aboriginal, immigrants or descendants of immigrants to this land.
In our current context of travel bans, religious and ethnic conflict and nationalist sentiments globally, we must remain committed to welcoming the world. Our embrace of the world will enhance our own culture but also exemplify the best of what we are as human beings.
Even with those lofty ideals, we sometimes see an unfortunate unwelcoming by those driven by misperception, fear and even hate. Some will point to the jobs taken by immigrants and the costs of resettlement. On the contrary, immigration is an extraordinary, profitable input into the Canadian and B.C. economies. The highest cost of supporting citizens is at the beginning and the end of our lives.
With immigrants, we receive many workers already educated and prepared to be productive contributors to our economy. We receive a bargain. Immigrants fill jobs; they do not take them. One of the biggest challenges to our economy in B.C. is our aging workforce and the subsequent skills shortage. Our lives benefit from the broader collage of cultural and ethnic contributions. We make friends, we learn, and we grow in every way.
I make this statement today before hosting a large group of Syrian immigrants to the B.C. Legislature tomorrow. I will thank them for choosing our communities, and I will commit to helping them.
To extract and deliver the greatest benefits for immigrants and for ourselves, we must support resettlement. We must not cut English training and the community resources required to support new immigrants towards the best possible outcomes for them and for us. To do otherwise would not be Canadian.
ELECTION CAMPAIGN FINANCING REFORM
J. Horgan: The government has had years to end the corrosive influence of big money in our politics here in British Columbia. They could have followed through on legislation last spring when the House was sitting. They could have called the House last fall instead of giving us a 200-day hiatus. We could have addressed big money in politics before now.
Here we are, 29 days away from the next election, and we still have a big, big problem. At least that’s what British Columbians keep telling me. I don’t believe the Premier runs into too many ordinary British Columbians on her private jets, but what people are telling me is that big money distorts our politics.
My question to the Premier of British Columbia is: what will it take for you to get big money out of the politics here in British Columbia?
Madame Speaker: Members’ questions must be directed through the Chair.
Hon. S. Anton: Two things. On this and on other questions that may come from the members opposite, I am mindful of the earlier rulings that you made regarding the appropriateness of this kind of question.
Secondly and more important, there is a bill before the House. It will be in second reading. There will be plenty of opportunity for the members opposite to give full discussion of the things that they would like to see.
Madame Speaker: The Leader of the Official Opposition on a supplemental.
J. Horgan: I would take advice from the Attorney if her bill had anything at all to do with getting big money out of politics, but regrettably, it does not.
Let me just recap. Maybe the Premier has missed this. Over a year ago, national newspapers in Canada were ridiculing the Wild West show here in British Columbia, about how the fundraising practices in British Columbia are different from anywhere else in the land. Then it was the New York Times, talking about cash-for-access fundraisers. Then, as recently as last week, Elections B.C. began conducting an investigation, and at the end of the week, they called in the Mounties. We called in the RCMP.
If ridicule across the country, international scorn, an investigation by Elections B.C. and then the cops coming are not enough to get big money out of politics, what will it take for the B.C. Liberals to do the right thing and get it out right now?
Madame Speaker: Members will be aware that the Chair has ruled that questions can only be asked of ministerial responsibility.
J. Horgan: I guess I’ll go to our good friend the Attorney General if the Premier doesn’t want to stand and defend her record. I mean, this is the same Premier who said $300,000 in additional salary was just a car allowance. But if we’re not allowed to talk about that, hon. Speaker…
Madame Speaker: New question.
J. Horgan: …I’ll pose my question to the head law-keeper here.
Madame Speaker: New question.
J. Horgan: Of course, she will be aware that the RCMP are investigating the fundraising tactics and practices of the B.C. Liberal Party. She will be aware….
Madame Speaker: New question.
J. Horgan: I will, hon. Speaker. I will, but I have to say that’s more life that I’ve seen in the listless Liberals in some time. My goodness. Poke, poke, poke.
In the interest of brevity, to the Attorney General, why is it that she will not ban big money in B.C.? Why is it that the B.C. Liberals want to continue to hoover up corporate donations…
Madame Speaker: Mr. Leader.
J. Horgan: …and leave regular people at the side of the road not involved in the politics?
Madame Speaker: Next question.
J. Wickens: I can think of many colourful ways to describe B.C. Liberal fundraising practices, but their own descriptions are the most accurate. In November of 2013, our Minister of Labour and the Deputy Premier stood beneath a banner at a B.C. Liberal fundraiser and said, “We won. Every day is Christmas,” and then proceeded to demand cash from corporate donors at an unprecedented amount.
Can our Premier tell the House: is the reason she won’t ban big money because she wants more Christmas presents from her well-connected donors?
Madame Speaker: Member.
Hon. C. Clark: Well, the member will know that I’ve asked the Deputy Attorney General to begin work on bringing together recommendations for a panel that will look at all of the changes that could be made and should be made. It would be unanimously appointed by the Legislature — not piecemeal, as we’ve seen with various bills. All of them will be considered by the panel — all of them, and on a regular basis, as well, in concurrence with every second election cycle.
I think that’ll be good work for all of us to consider when the government, whoever forms the government, comes back after the next election.
But I think I should…. The member may not know that her leader just sent out a note saying to people: “Come to our fundraising dinner at the Fairmont Hotel. Enjoy drinks and appetizers as we discuss the exciting upcoming provincial election. This is your best opportunity to hear from John.” There’s a group price of $3,000. It’s also my understanding that this letter was followed up by a phone call, inviting people to come to a pre-reception that would only cost them $10,000.
Now, as private cash-for-access opportunities go, that is cheap for the Leader of the Opposition. We know that he has previously said he’d sit down with anyone for
[ Page 14275 ]
$50,000. All we know now: the price has gone down, but he still has a price.
J. Wickens: Our Premier has forgotten that she’s the one with the power to ban big money. She is our Premier.
Madame Speaker: I’m trusting your question will reflect ministerial responsibility.
J. Wickens: “We won. Christmas every day.” It really sums up the B.C. Liberals’ approach to fundraising. “Write us a cheque, and we can talk.”
The Premier could fix this today. Today she could do it. She could call our bill banning big money, and she could pass it in a single sitting. So why does the Premier refuse to do the right thing and get big money out of politics altogether?
Hon. C. Clark: Another question that should be asked, and should be asked today, and that will be asked throughout the election campaign that’s upcoming is: why does the NDP say they want to do something and then go ahead and do the exact opposite, which is what they’re doing with this shakedown letter?
Why is it that when one political party, the governing party in this House, has voluntarily decided to go out and make sure that we disclose, in real time, political donations before the election, the NDP refuses to do so? Why is it that the NDP says one thing one day and then does another thing the next day? Why is it that the Leader of the Opposition stands up in this House and says he wants to ban union and corporate donations while he is on the tarmac to go to Toronto and get private donations at a private breakfast that he thought he could keep secret?
The issue in this election will be a leader who does one thing and says another. British Columbians should be very concerned about that. That’s not leadership.
LOAN FOR CONDO PRESALES MARKETING
CAMPAIGN AND ROLE OF FUNDRAISER
D. Eby: B.C. Housing gave a $40 million loan to a private developer to finance the presale marketing of condos that start at $1.6 million each. Who was on the board of B.C. Housing when this loan was approved? Bob Rennie, the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, the man who made the Premier’s extra $300,000 in salary possible by raising millions in big money for the B.C. Liberals.
How did Bob Rennie get on the B.C. Housing board? Well, he was put on the board by his friend the Deputy Premier through order-in-council. And who was the lead real estate agent on this condo development “designed for daily luxury”? Why, yes, it was Bob Rennie.
Why did the Premier allow tax dollars intended to build housing for the poorest of the poor go to financing a presale condo marketing campaign by her chief fundraiser?
Hon. R. Coleman: To the member opposite: I notice that you didn’t go out after last week’s question period and repeat what you said in this House, because you knew you’d probably be sued for what you said in here simply because you didn’t have the right information. You accused the government of financing a project where we financed the affordable rental units that we built as part of a mixed-use project.
This one’s a bit more complicated. Not only did we step up and make a deal work, where we actually doubled the amount and number of social housing units in a project on redevelopment; we’ve put more affordable housing in the city of Vancouver. We had no involvement whatsoever in the marketing of the market units in the project.
Madame Speaker: Vancouver–Point Grey on a supplemental.
D. Eby: In the minister’s own mortgage for this property, it says: “Give us updates on the presale condo progress. How well are you selling presale condos?” So I’m not sure this minister has any idea what he’s talking about. Not only that, but I was absolutely right about everything that I said about the last project this minister did, where they provided interest-free money to a major donor to build a project that the donor had to build anyway. And not only that, but they provided them with a fat developer fee as well.
The minister says this is such a good deal for taxpayers that B.C. Housing forgot to put it on the FOI list. They forgot to put it on the freedom-of-information list that they sent to us of projects that this government funded. Somehow they forgot the $39 million loan. They also forgot that same project, that Wall development corporation project on Hastings Street. They didn’t disclose that one either.
So my question to the Premier is: how many secret loans are there to B.C. Liberal major donors?
Hon. R. Coleman: I know there’s one word in this House that we can’t use with regards to whether you’re telling the truth or not. I will say it to the media when I get out of here, because I can’t say it in here.
But you’re wrong. What you are saying isn’t true. There was no interest-free loan, none whatsoever. As a matter of fact, we got a number of units out of this project for affordable rental. A whole bunch of them, 50-ish, were all for core need at $375 a month. We actually went into a partnership to develop a project to make the numbers work so we could create more affordable rental housing in the city of Vancouver.
As a result of that, a whole bunch of people that you keep wanting to stand in the way…
[ Page 14276 ]
Madame Speaker: Through the Chair.
Hon. R. Coleman: …of getting affordable rental housing on a regular basis, because you don’t like people doing partnerships that actually have a public benefit, will be having new homes to rent at an affordable rental price in Vancouver.
Your statement that there was an interest-free loan that was done is incorrect.
Madame Speaker: Through the Chair.
Hon. R. Coleman: We did not finance any of the market rentals or market units for the other company. We actually just financed the ones that we got out of the project for affordable rental in Vancouver.
If you don’t like that, that’s fine. The fact of the matter is the other project mentioned, the rentals in one of these projects, was in the state where it could be turned down. It actually turned out, as we redeveloped the site between two property switches, that we ended up with double the number of affordable rentals in Vancouver.
S. Robinson: What are British Columbians supposed to think? They look at a decision by B.C. Housing to loan money to build luxury condos that are then marketed by the Premier’s chief fundraiser. They have to ask themselves just who benefits by this.
Make no mistake. It’s the Premier who put us in this position by rejecting to ban big money every single time.
Why won’t the Premier do the right thing and just ban big money once and for all?
Hon. R. Coleman: I know the press gallery is in the press gallery. I’d like them to just take the opportunity to ask both of these members now to repeat what they’ve said in this House outside.
There’s never been an interest-free loan given to anybody in any development in British Columbia with regards to the delivery of housing that’s affordable in B.C. through B.C. Housing.
There’s no such thing as us going and financing the luxury condo you refer to because we didn’t do that. They financed their own units within the building because we finance the units that would bring the public benefit — affordable rentals for the people that need it the most in British Columbia.
Because you’re opposed to affordable rentals in Vancouver, you don’t support rent assistance for families. You just want them to all go back out on the street.
Madame Speaker: Through the Chair, Minister.
Hon. R. Coleman: You can’t support a home program that would actually give us more rental in the marketplace.
It’s astounding to me that you just want to get up and not tell the truth or put information out there that is absolutely not correct. We finance these projects the proper way. And by the way, there was never an interest-free loan at all.
S. Robinson: Well, the Premier’s chief fundraiser does make millions marketing luxury condos paid for through a B.C. Housing loan.
According to FOI documents, the Premier’s chief fundraiser gets exclusive access to the Premier’s senior advisers on the very issues affecting his industry. British Columbians are left wondering why they can’t get the Premier’s ear. They’re left to wonder how much they have to pay before the Premier takes their concerns seriously.
Madame Speaker: Members.
S. Robinson: British Columbians are left to wonder how much they have to pay before they can actually get the Premier’s ear.
What possible reason could the Premier have for not banning big money?
Hon. R. Coleman: If you went to any jurisdiction in North America or across this country today, you would be told by other jurisdictions that the most professional, innovative organization in delivering housing in any jurisdiction in North America is B.C. Housing.
The CEO of B.C. Housing was a senior member of the corporation when the NDP were in power. He’s continued to be there now in excess of 20, maybe 25 years. They have put together programs to help people with homelessness, mental health and addictions, figured out how to put meals into shelters.
Any insult to those good, hard-working people who are out there every single day trying to make sure that the most vulnerable people in this province have a place to go at night, that they have a place to meet with an outreach worker, that they have a place to go and build housing for seniors across the province is wrong. They actually said, on the other side of that question….
You guys should wake up one of these days and figure out that just insulting the public service of British Columbia doesn’t get anything done.
ELECTION CAMPAIGN FINANCING REFORM
G. Holman: To hear this minister complaining about misinformation about the bizarre claims about “Debt-free B.C.” in the last election is unbelievable.
[ Page 14277 ]
Other jurisdictions in Canada know that big money is corrosive. They know that allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to have exclusive access to the top decision-makers in government pushes average people further away from the political process. And now we learn that big money donations have become so corrosive that the RCMP is investigating the B.C. Liberal Party.
Madame Speaker: Member, new question.
G. Holman: My question, Madame Speaker, is about legislation. It’s about the law of this province. Why won’t the Premier and the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General, ban big money in this province?
Madame Speaker: Next question. New question, Saanich North and the Islands.
G. Holman: The official opposition has tried time and time again, six times in this place, to introduce changes to legislation to ban big money…
Madame Speaker: New question, Member.
G. Holman: …six times and for the last three elections, to ensure that citizens who need government’s help will be judged on the merit of their ideas rather than the size of their campaign donations.
Why won’t the Premier…?
Madame Speaker: Member, take your seat.
G. Holman: Why won’t the Premier ban big money today?
Madame Speaker: Member, take your seat.
New question, remembering that questions are posed where members have ministerial responsibility.
M. Mungall: We’re definitely hearing a lot of examples of how corporations donate big dollars to the B.C. Liberals, and then suddenly we see policies coming from this government that seem to benefit those very corporations. Here’s another example.
Madame Speaker: New question, Member.
M. Mungall: This is directly within this government’s purview and about their policies, Madame Speaker.
The Deputy Premier allows a forest company to pull private land out of a tree licence in a manner that the Auditor General says is against the public interest. That forest company turns out to be a big political donor, and the public, of course, is left questioning how that decision was influenced.
This whole thing just stinks, and the Premier could fix it today. So will she, by banning big money from B.C. politics?
Madame Speaker: New question.
Madame Speaker: Members. All members are aware that questions will be posed where a minister has ministerial responsibility.
New question, Nelson-Creston.
M. Mungall: Again I’ll ask a question about a government decision and what’s influencing that government decision. That is certainly within the ministerial purview of this government.
Again, another example. The government awards a lucrative contract to a government relations firm to attack the Auditor General over his report on carbon offsets. Surprise, surprise — the firm turns out to be a major political donor to the B.C. Liberal Party. Again, how are these decisions by this government being made?
Let’s just put those questions aside. Let’s give reassurance to the public and make sure that they know that they’re first and foremost in this government, and any government, by banning big money today. Will the Premier get on with doing that?
Madame Speaker: New question.
S. Simpson: Hon. Speaker, as you’ll know, and as the government knows, it is the responsibility of the government to adopt the legislation and the policies that decide how contributions are made and how they’re allowed to be made. It’s not the political parties; it is the government. It is the Premier. It is the minister responsible.
My question is to the Premier. She has responsibility — her and her ministers — to decide the policy of this province around these matters. Will the Premier do what’s right and ban big money as she’s responsible for?
Hon. C. Clark: I’ve already answered that question specifically. I spoke to it before the House came into session this afternoon, and there are a number of bills in front of the House already. I don’t think I need to cover that again.
I don’t need to cover the Leader of the Opposition’s $10,000 private secret reception that he’s got planned — I’ve already talked about that — or his predilection for sitting down with anybody who will give him 50 grand. At the same time, he does one thing and says another. I think everybody knows that about him already.
[ Page 14278 ]
Madame Speaker: Members.
Hon. C. Clark: If members can go back to questions about things that governments did 15 years ago, maybe I can go back to part of the question that was asked just a couple of questions ago, which was about whether or not British Columbia, whether or not this government has kept its commitment to becoming a debt-free province.
In the next four years, we have targeted to eliminate British Columbia’s operating debt for the first time since 1975. That is the first step toward becoming a debt-free British Columbia — a strong economy, one where people are working…
Madame Speaker: Members. Members.
Hon. C. Clark: …finding a way to get to yes on projects and support working people across British Columbia. Those are the reasons we are going to be able to find our way, ultimately, to getting toward a debt-free British Columbia. We are partway there already in being able to eliminate our operating debt for the first time since 1975.
We hope that if our government is re-elected, we’ll have the opportunity to go even further so that our children aren’t burdened with the kind of debt that an NDP government would love to leave them with.
M. Farnworth: Well, it’s been really interesting to listen to the Premier try and skate around the issue of campaign contributions and the influence of money in politics in British Columbia, and her refusal to get to a direct answer.
Listening to her, she reminds me of a couple of kids who had a party, trashed the house and suddenly realized that the parents are going to be home and that we need to clean things up. She’s trying to stuff everything under the kitchen table, polish the floors, get things in a drawer, get things under the bed and hope the parents don’t notice that the place was trashed.
Well, parents are wise to their kids. Parents aren’t going to be fooled. In the same way, the public isn’t going to be fooled by this Premier’s nonsensical, lackadaisical approach to the corruption of big money in politics in British Columbia.
Madame Speaker: Member.
M. Farnworth: The Premier thinks that a $300,000 top-up from private donations is a distraction, and that “I got to deal with it.” Well, guess what. The public knows that big money is more than a distraction. It is corrosive.
Madame Speaker: Member.
M. Farnworth: And they know what the answer is: ban big money in politics.
Madame Speaker: Port Coquitlam.
M. Farnworth: So it’s really simple. When will the Premier ban big money in politics in B.C.?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, the member asks about getting the House in order. I’d like to talk a little bit about that, because this House has never been in better order than it is today — our fifth consecutive balanced budget, $1 billion in tax cuts for the people of British Columbia.
Madame Speaker: Members.
Hon. C. Clark: Its $1 billion to invest in new services to make sure that the Canadians who are flooding across our borders can all take part fully in a fair and just society.
The independent comment that supports this comes from the Bank of Montreal. “British Columbia maintains the last standing triple-A credit rating on the provincial landscape, and deservedly so. The province is targeting a fifth great surplus in ’17-18 and is in the rare position to be lowering the tax burden…. The debt burden remains low and stable, and our credit report card gives the province the top overall grade in Canada right now.”
This House, Madame Speaker, is fully in order.
[End of question period.]
S. Robinson: I have a petition I’d like to present. This has 389 signatures asking government to require that animals be provided with proper ventilation and protection from extreme weather when being transported or left unattended in vehicles.
E. Foster: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
E. Foster: Madame Speaker, on your behalf, I’d like to make an introduction. I have the pleasure this afternoon of introducing 23 Washington state legislative interns who are visiting from Olympia. They are here as part of an annual leadership exchange between Washington state and British Columbia. The exchange is an opportunity to learn, observe and compare our two systems of government.
[ Page 14279 ]
We share a border, many natural resources and often work together to achieve mutual goals. This exchange is a valued part of our B.C. legislative internship program. Our visiting U.S. interns represent several universities in Washington state and a wide variety of academic pursuits and were particularly interested in our natural resource management and K-to-12 education.
Would the House please make them welcome.
Hon. M. de Jong: I have the honour to present the Public Service Benefit Plan Act 2015-16 annual report.
Orders of the Day
Hon. M. de Jong: Madame Speaker, continued second reading debate on Bill 3, Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act.
Second Reading of Bills
BILL 3 — DISCRIMINATORY PROVISIONS
(HISTORICAL WRONGS) REPEAL ACT
B. Routley: I want to say that it is indeed an honour to stand in this House and talk about Bill 3, the Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act. It is indeed important that we acknowledge the real history of British Columbia and what actually happened in the past and, to the extent that we can, try to right those wrongs. It is important in today’s British Columbia that we attempt to do that.
In looking back, I noticed that one of the first MLAs in the Cowichan Valley, who went on to be the sixth Premier of the province of British Columbia, was William Smithe, from 1883 to 1887. Actually, in that time period, there was a debate on taxes. On the motion, Smithe said: “Be it resolved that the government should bring a bill to tax every Chinese person engaged in gold mining in British Columbia $20 a year in lieu of the taxation bill noted below and that the government, between this and the next session of the Legislature, prepare carefully a bill to further deal with the Chinese question.”
[R. Lee in the chair.]
The reason I read that out is because as the current MLA for Cowichan Valley, I want to be clear that we absolutely reject that kind of racism and discrimination and would call on all British Columbians to try to deal with the historical wrongs and to apologize to anybody that’s somehow different that we have chosen, as a province, to discriminate in any way.
In doing some research, I also looked back on the forest industry. I was surprised to learn that back in 1923, MacMillan Bloedel, which was around even then, had a record that reported 39 percent of sawmill workers in 1923 were of either Chinese, Japanese or East Indian descent, and in 1925, they talked about the different rates that applied.
In 1925, there were different rates for different classes of workers — something that again today we find totally unacceptable. Back then, they actually had a white rate of $1 a day. The East Indian rate was between 26 cents and 75 cents a day, and the Chinese were 26 cents and under. This is shameful — that we had to evolve in time and get to a point where there was wage equalization. Different races of people should not be paid different rates of pay. Yet recently we had in Canada the problem of temporary foreign workers, where we had a government of Canada that was accepting that it was okay to pay less to temporary foreign workers working in Canada than to other workers, something that I also totally disagree with.
By 1934 here in British Columbia, the fact is that the B.C. minimum wage law that was being worked on in 1934 did exclude one group of people. It excluded the Asians, mostly Chinese or Japanese workers, who made up about 25 percent of the forest industry workers at the time. In 1934, there were actually legislative exclusions for certain groups of people, based on race.
I’m sorry for my voice, hon. Speaker. It’s a bit of a flu, and it’s affected my speaking ability today.
In closing, I wanted to say that during the 1970s, I remember, as a safety chairman, I was touring the Hammond sawmill. It was B.C. Forest Products at the time. I remember this occasion well because I had the fire chief of the mill touring around. As we walked through the mill, there was a group of folks that were primarily East Indian and other ethnic groups. I asked him, by way of interest: “How many people do you have on your fire department who are either East Indian or Chinese or some other ethnic group?”
His answer astonished me, shocked me and saddened me. He actually had the audacity to say back: “Well, none, because they’re mostly suitable for labour.” He said: “Name me one person that you know of that’s really attained much of anything at all from any of those groups.”
I quickly shot back: “Well, have you heard of Herb Doman?” That was the end of our conversation for the rest of the day, because he looked at me with kind of a sneer and said: “Yeah. Of course.”
He was trying his best to argue and to try to make sense out of something that made no sense at all, and that’s to have an attitude of discrimination, an attitude that says because you’re somehow different, you’re less acceptable.
I think of all of the times that I had to be put in a situation where it was somebody from one of the various ethnic groups that came to me as plant chairman. I found
[ Page 14280 ]
myself being discriminated against from other workers who said: “Well, why are you doing that? Why are you standing up for somebody that…?” They used a derogatory term that I won’t even use. “Why are you standing up for that person?” I remember thinking and saying out loud to them: “Look, we’re all created equal.”
We’re here on this planet together a very short time, and a very long time dead. We need to understand and get along with each other in all of the various ethnic groups. Has it been difficult throughout history? No question about it. But it’s unacceptable that we have to deal with those kinds of things.
Because of my voice today, I’m going to wrap this up right now, because I think I’m about done. I do want to say, as kind of a last statement in this House, that it’s been an honour to be here in British Columbia in this Legislature and to represent the people of Cowichan Valley.
It’s an honour, for my last statement, to be involved in a way where we’re standing up for those people who are discriminated against. It’s an honour to stand here and defend the rights of all British Columbians to be treated equally in this honourable House. We need to ensure that that fairness, that equity, the rights of all people…. Whether it be men, women or different ethnic groups, they have to be treated equally.
Hon. N. Letnick: I would like to thank the hon. member from the Cowichan Valley for his service, over many years, dedicated to the constituents that he represents and to all the people of British Columbia. I am sorry his voice has given out on him after so many years of jiggery-pokery, but it was a pleasure and a privilege to get to know him over my eight years in this Legislature.
On his behalf and on behalf of the Minister of International Trade and all the members around the House, I’d like to take the baton that he has just passed because of his sore throat and grab it and continue with support of this bill, which I hope, I expect, will be passed unanimously at the end.
Like the member and other members previous who have spoken to this bill and, probably, some who are going to speak, I have a personal story as well. As you know, I have a daughter that joined us from Manila some 20 years ago. We adopted Naomi from the Philippines, and she joined our family. The last thing I would want her to have is any discrimination as a visible minority in this province or in this country.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve never felt she had been treated any differently than any other British Columbian. She went through high school, like all the other kids her age. She went through college at Okanagan College, got a diploma in civil engineering technology, and soon after graduating from Okanagan College, she got a full-time job and is working in an engineering company, drafting plans up in civil engineering. From the stories that she tells me, the people that she works with are very, very nice and very supportive of her in her first full-time employment.
I also have a daughter-in-law now that is from China, a daughter-in-law that married my son J.P. Joanna is a wonderful lady. She is in her early 20s as well. Together with J.P., they have produced our only granddaughter so far. I look forward to all my three kids helping grow those numbers.
Hon. N. Letnick: I’m sure they’re not listening. They’re working, all three of them.
I hope that the same experience that my daughter Naomi has experienced through her lifetime in B.C. is also followed through with Joanna, being of Chinese origin. From everything she’s told me, it would appear to be the case that she is able to live in a country and in a province that does not tolerate discrimination.
I’m glad to see this bill come forward to this House to continue to support all British Columbians in moving forward with their lives — in particular, of course, in my family’s case, being with one child from the Philippines, one new daughter from China and one granddaughter being of mixed race as well. I hope for her to continue to enjoy life in our province and in our country in a non-discriminative manner.
I want to expand that to all my constituents of Kelowna–Lake Country — that no matter what their origin or race or beliefs, they continue to live in a country and in a province where they can be proud to call this province of ours home and continue to be productive members of society in a free and open democracy, in a non-discriminative manner. I just want to congratulate the minister for bringing forward this bill and to thank all the members around the House for support.
Specifically, to the bill. As usual, it’s an honour to see the bill — a historical moment for British Columbia. Our government made a commitment to review legislation identified as discriminatory, as part of the recommendations in the Chinese Historical Wrongs final report. I’m proud to be given an opportunity to be part of that process and to help deliver on that promise.
The legislation review report shows that the vast majority of B.C. laws are free from discrimination and confirms that new laws in this province must conform to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the report also identified 19 historical private acts that contained discriminatory provisions. This historical private legislation, discovered during the legislative review, is reflective of a painful time in B.C.’s collective history.
While these provisions cannot be currently used to legally discriminate against British Columbians, the new Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act that our government is advancing here today will repeal the discriminatory sections to right this historical
[ Page 14281 ]
wrong. It’s important to know that current legislation for human rights in British Columbia protects all British Columbians against legislated discrimination, and this is just another step that we’re taking in the right direction.
We have worked tirelessly at all levels to right this historical wrong. Multiculturalism staff worked closely with the Ministry of Justice, legal counsel and research staff to review B.C. legislation identified as discriminatory. The review included private acts and unconsolidated public acts, including amendments which were enacted between 1871 and 1982 — nearly 2,000 pieces of legislation when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced in 1982.
It is important to note that there are no active B.C. laws or statutes that prohibit any ethnic group from owning land or participating in any occupation in British Columbia. We have been working on correcting these wrongs for several years now, and we have worked on various projects throughout the years to commemorate the legacy of Canadians hailing from various ethnic backgrounds.
The legacy projects commemorate the apology in the Legislature on May 15, 2014, and celebrate the contributions of Chinese Canadians to the history, culture and economic prosperity of our province. This was a historical commitment, and we are thoroughly following the recommendations in this report.
Indeed, we’re making good progress on all of these legacy projects. In 2014, our government introduced funding of $1 million to support the Chinese legacy projects recommended in the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report.
Legacy projects are the result and inspiration of the Chinese historical wrongs consultation process and report and will ensure that historical wrongs are acknowledged and remain part of our collective history. Legacy project themes include public education and general awareness, celebrating heritage values, celebrating Chinese-Canadian achievement in British Columbia and public awareness to ensure that legislative discriminatory practices never happen again in B.C.
Some highlights of the progress included provincial recognition of 21 places of historical significance to the Chinese-Canadian community under the Heritage Conservation Act, a contribution of $100,000 of legacy funding to the Royal B.C. Museum Gold Rush exhibit featuring Chinese mining pioneers, launching an on-line resource on the anniversary of the apology for historical wrongs and providing information about Chinese legacy projects and their progress at www.gov.bc.ca/chineselegacybc.
We’re also updating B.C.’s education curriculum to include historical wrongs against Chinese Canadians and First Nations, as well as specific incidents like the Komagata Maru and the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II; fulfilling an important commitment with the new curriculum supplement for grades 5 and 10 students, Bamboo Shoots: Chinese Canadian Legacies in B.C.; and also providing $20,000 to the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C. to help to complete All Our Father’s Relations, a film about a rarely told chapter of B.C.’s history of Chinese and First Nations relations.
We also launched a new digital inventory of Chinese artifacts held in local museums across B.C., in partnership with the University of Victoria, to help showcase the significance of Chinese Canadians to our society. Recently we unveiled a commemorative monument in two communities — in my home community of Kelowna, and in Cumberland — to express the positive contribution of Chinese Canadians to B.C.’s history, culture and prosperity. It was indeed an honour for me to be there along with the minister.
There are two remaining legacy projects expected to be completed in 2017. They include a celebration book intended to provide a profile of the positive contribution of Chinese Canadians to B.C.’s social, economic and cultural history; also an inventory of Chinese clan association buildings across the province; and feasibility studies to identify options regarding affordable housing.
Again, I would thank the minister for providing this leadership, thank all members on both sides of the House for their contributions to its fruition and look forward to being able to vote in favour of this if and when it comes forward for a vote in this Legislature.
D. Donaldson: I rise to take my place in second reading debate of Bill 3, the Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act, and I’m very pleased to take my place. This is a good move by the entire chamber and the Legislature to be able to support this kind of bill.
The bill fulfils a recommendation from the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report and Recommendations. That was a report to ensure the repeal of discriminatory legislation that was passed by the Legislature and part of the Legislature debates in the past.
It repeals discriminatory provisions that remain technically in effect in a number of private acts. Although we aren’t behaving in the way that these laws set out in a different time, they’re still on the books and are, frankly, offensive and discriminatory and need to be addressed.
The actual act has its roots back in 2014, when the official opposition urged that the legislative record inform a full apology and reconciliation of historical wrongs against the Chinese-Canadian community and other racial minorities. The work of the member for Vancouver-Kingsway and the official opposition member for Surrey-Whalley and the then-member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, Jenny Kwan, went a long way to providing the basis for the act that we are debating today at second reading.
[ Page 14282 ]
Having served with the former member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, Jenny Kwan, I have to really point out the amazing and thorough and persistent work she did in this area. Shortly after a unanimous consent was achieved in this House in May 2014 around an apology, around this racist legislation and racist views from the past, Jenny Kwan introduced, in 2015, a Racist Covenants Removal Act as part of the Land Title Statutes Amendment Act.
She was, again, trying to get at provisions that are in the legislation around the discrimination against Chinese and Japanese when it came to actually owning property and owning title. Those are still outstanding, as far as being in the record. But it just showed her determination and her persistence in trying to correct historical wrongs — wrongs that I think any fair-minded person would realize are against diversity and against race.
Some of them that we’re considering today…. It was pointed out by the official opposition — Vancouver-Kingsway — back in 2014. He pointed out that we’re talking about 89 separate bills and 49 resolutions of the B.C. Legislature passed from 1872 to 1928, not to mention a raft of other motions and efforts by private members to perpetuate this vision, this notion that B.C. was a white man’s province, and if you weren’t white, you weren’t allowed. These are the words of the member for Vancouver-Kingsway back in January 2014, as reported in the media.
That’s, in essence, what we’re getting at today with this bill. The bill actually addresses 19 of those bills and resolutions and motions and efforts. When looking back through the ones that are being addressed in what we’re considering today, I think of my official opposition spokesperson area portfolio, which is mainly focused primarily on mining and mineral exploration.
Many of the acts that we’re looking at today as discriminatory under Bill 3 have to do with mining in the province. If anyone has read the history of mining in B.C., you would know that many Chinese immigrants worked the claims, especially around Barkerville, in the early days. Once those claims were proven up, they then became subject to racist, discriminatory legislation that we’re looking at today to make sure is repealed. That’s still on the record. Much of the legislation that’s being considered under this amendment, under Bill 3, has to do with actually specific private companies who discriminated against….
I think of some of them, and it reminds me again of the backbreaking work that many Chinese immigrants did in the gold fields, especially around Barkerville. Provisions such as this that we’re looking at….
Back in 1881, a provision granted the exclusive right to make, erect and maintain a dam for the purposes of penning back the waters of Quesnel Lake and, also, to mine the bed of Quesnel River for a term of 20 years. This was a very mineral-rich, gold-rich area of the province.
The specific discriminatory clause in that was that the association, meaning the association that had the authority over this river bed and the dam, shall not sell rights or interests to Chinese. This is the kind of outright racist discrimination…. After people of Chinese origin and Chinese descent went into an area of the province and worked those claims, they were then virtually banned or prohibited from owning any of the interests in them.
Another one — this was around a lease of a portion of the bed of Findlay Creek and lands contiguous thereto for mining purposes. I don’t know exactly which Findlay Creek we’re talking about. There are a number of them in the northern part of the province. There are also some in the Kamloops area.
This granted a lease of 25 years to the lands near Findlay Creek for the purpose of mining. Yet again, in the discriminatory section of this act, the company shall not employ Chinese workers and the company shall not transfer the lands of interest to the Chinese. Again, not only banning employment but the transfer of lands. In many cases, the initial claim, the initial stake, was made by people of Chinese descent, and then once that lease came up for more permanent renewal, these laws discriminated against them actually owning it.
These are very, very…. What’s the word I’m looking for there? They’re discriminatory and racist — basically, laws that reflected the attitude of the time.
There’s another piece of legislation that we’re considering under Bill 3 around the right to prospect in the mouth of the Quesnel River and adjacent lands. Again, the discriminatory clause of that is that the company shall not employ Chinese or Japanese workers. That was 1895.
The Cariboo district. Another piece of legislation gives the company the right to mine lands in the Cariboo district for a period of 20 years. This is the Lightning Creek Gold Gravels and Drainage Co. Again, the clause in the act is that the company shall not employ Chinese or Japanese workers.
So out of the 19 pieces of legislation that we’re considering under this bill, there’s about half of them that deal with mining. That just reflects the hard work that many Chinese immigrants and people of Chinese descent undertook on behalf of the province and undertook in the Barkerville area and around the province generally to help build and extract minerals from the ground that led to a lot of wealth being generated in the province.
The Speaker will know that the murals of this building, in the rotunda, outline the four areas of wealth that has been generated by this province from natural resources and were important in the formation of this province. There are four murals depicted. One is commercial fishing, one is commercial forestry, one is around agriculture, and the fourth is around mining. So it’s very significant that mining laws were amended by previous legislatures to not only prohibit the employment of Chinese and Japanese Canadians when it came to actually working the claims that many of them had originally staked but also when it came to owning those claims as well.
[ Page 14283 ]
I’m very happy to support this bill and, as I said before, especially from the aspect of my official opposition spokesperson portfolio, which is primarily focused on the mining and mineral exploration part of what we do here in the Legislature.
I want to also read back words that the minister responsible for this legislation, when she introduced it at second reading — some of the words that I think are very important that she put on the record in Hansard. This is in reference to the laws and some of the wording in the different sections that we’re considering. “Repealing them through the proposed bill will not only encourage healing; it will clearly reflect British Columbia’s refusal to accept any form of racism. And it will solidify our reputation as a place of diversity and acceptance, a place where people of all cultures are welcomed and embraced.”
I really embrace those heartfelt words from the minister as she introduced second reading. As well, it reminds me of legislation generally that we consider — not from, necessarily, way back in the 1930s or previous to that but more recent legislation and provisions that lie within current legislation that also, I think, fall under what the minister is talking about here.
One that sticks in my mind because of the area I represent is the wording in many of the acts that the province has that reflects federal wording, and that’s how an Indian is defined. Those are the words used in the legislation and what we’re referring to as First Nations people in this province. The way that that is defined in legislation in this province is an Indian as defined under the federal Indian Act. Again, the Indian Act federally defines an Indian as someone who is a registered Indian — in other words, someone who has status. In other words, the federal government is defining who is an aboriginal person in this province by saying they have to be registered under status.
If we’re really considering a refusal, as the minister’s words were, to accept any form of racism and trying to solidify our reputation as a place of diversity and acceptance, as the minister said in second reading, there’s more than simply the legislation we’re looking at today. I’m very supportive of this legislation when it comes to the discriminatory provisions that have been listed against Chinese and Japanese and other people, but we also have to think about this in terms of First Nations people in the province.
I’m not sure if everybody understands how offensive it is to be defined as a First Nations person by the federal government as someone only who has status under the federal act. Many First Nations don’t have status, yet they are aboriginal peoples of this province. I gave some examples before about how a First Nations person could lose their status — for instance, if they wanted to fight for this country in the Second World War. To do that, they had to give up their status and weren’t able to get it back. In that instance, that person then was no longer an Indian in the views of the legislation, in the views of the federal government and, therefore, in the views of the provincial government, because we still have these kinds of discriminatory definitions on record.
I also know, and I’ve been told, of personal stories of Indians agents at the time. This is within living history — Indian agents who operated in the area I represent who were encouraged and given bonuses if they could get First Nations to give up their status. Of course, a person who has status is entitled to certain benefits from the federal government based on the fact of fiduciary obligation and legal and constitutional issues. But an Indian agent was rewarded by the federal government to get people to revoke their status. I know stories of young First Nations mothers who had children and were offered a washing machine and a dryer if they gave up their status. These are real stories.
Again, as we’re considering Bill 3 and the uncontestable merits of this act that we’re considering in Bill 3, we’ve also got to base that in the context and the reality of…. These days are not over in this province, not simply just with the kinds of revisions and repeals that we’re talking about in this act. We really need to look with a sharp eye at other legislation that impacts people today.
In relation to that, some people would say: “Well, how else would you define what an Indian is unless you consider the federal legislation?” As I said, the provincial legislation refers directly to the federal legislation on this matter. Well, you would ask First Nations to provide a definition that’s workable within the legislation.
I point out…. For instance, one First Nation in the area I represent, the Gitanyow — as well as the Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en and other First Nations in the area I represent — has very strong social, cultural and political governance systems within their structure. It’s a very structured hereditary organization. It’s alive, and it’s well. It’s based on the house group system, the wilp, and people understand it. In fact, with the Gitanyow, they have an agreement with the provincial government called the Gitanyow Lax’yip land use agreement where the wilp system, the hereditary system, is actually recognized as the decision-making system on their territory, on their unceded lands.
Here we have a workable solution around what many would call the racist language of federal legislation when it comes to a status Indian, which the current provincial legislation refers to and uses. On one hand, we have that. On the other hand, we have some recognition that the wilp system is alive and well. It’s a true governance system, and that is being recognized by various ministries in the government as a legal authority to sign agreements when it comes to land use planning.
I think that’s the way forward. Each house group, each wilp, has very well defined territory within the Gitanyow
[ Page 14284 ]
within the Gitxsan and within the Wet’suwet’en, and there are laws around how that happens. Those laws are called the Adawaak and the ayookw. So there are well-known and well-established laws about how that land can be used and who can use that land. This government has recognized that within the Gitanyow Lax’yip land use plan.
I think what would be a wonderful follow-up to this bill is to look through legislation in this province that discriminates on the basis of race, especially when it comes to First Nations in this province, and consider how important the need for reconciliation is if we’re going to move forward, and then look at those provisions, such as defining an Indian only as a person who has status under the definition of the federal act, and see where we can work a more realistic and less racist solution.
In the words, then, of the minister who introduced this bill — and I quote her again: “It will solidify our reputation as a place of diversity and acceptance and a place where people of all cultures are welcomed and embraced.” I think that’s the approach we need to take with legislation, not only like this, which is correcting historical wrongs when it comes to Chinese people in this province, but with First Nations as well.
With that, I will wrap up my comments on Bill 3. I’m in support of this bill and look forward to it setting a precedent where we can actually look at other legislation, when it comes to First Nations in this province, that has the same kind of discriminatory tone and discriminatory provisions.
S. Sullivan: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this important issue. First of all, I’d like to acknowledge the Minister of International Trade and Multiculturalism, who has really worked hard to move this forward. I’d also like to acknowledge the Deputy Speaker and how remarkable it is that in this very room is where many of these racist decisions were being made, now to have the hon. Deputy Speaker as a person of Chinese descent…. It’s quite an amazing journey that this province has been on.
I asked myself the question, several years ago, how it was that British Columbia started out — to be founded by a black man, married to an aboriginal woman, and they spoke French at home. Here we had a province that was clearly steeped in multiculturalism, yet within maybe a decade of his being forced from power, actually, we ended up having a virulently racist government.
I’m just going to read from one newspaper article that was published in the London Times in May of 1860. The article said:
“The Chinese immigration, which was expected, is beginning to set in. About 800 Chinamen have arrived within the last fortnight, some of them in two vessels from China direct, others from San Francisco. They have nearly all gone up to the mines.
“Accounts from China say that a large immigration may be expected if the Chinese are well treated. There are no distinctions made against them in these colonies. They have the same protection as all other persons, and in the mines, they are allowed the same rights, liberties and privileges as all other miners. The great bulk of the population is very glad to see them coming into country. Fears for the result are the phantoms of a few nervous and ill-informed persons.”
We can see by this article in the London Times that British Columbia in 1860 was a very multicultural place, and it surprised me to see that and to note that James Douglas, a black man or, we should say, at least part African-American…. His mother was black. She was from South America — Demerara, British Guiana. And although he looked somewhat…. It was a little bit not certain as to what his race would be, looking at him directly. He was definitely of black-African descent.
So it’s important to go back to what was going on at that time. He ran the government of the time, which was in the form of a company-state. Of course, today, we don’t really know of this form of government anymore. The nation-state dominates all governments these days. But 150 years ago, the company state was actually a very important form of government.
The East India Co., for example, was a private corporation that ran India, that governed India, and the Hudson’s Bay Co. was the company state that ran most of western Canada. It was the legal government. Under its incorporation in 1670, it was given the Hudson Bay watershed as government, and then it governed the rest of the territory to the Pacific Ocean in 21-year agreements. Now, it only governed its own trading posts and trading communities and the people involved with that.
According to the proclamation of 1763, which was King George III, First Nations were sovereign. They ran their own governments and were sovereign. But the Hudson’s Bay Co. was the legal government in terms of the British and American point of view.
What happened at that point was that there was, as I say, a 21-year agreement that was renewed twice. The Hudson’s Bay Co. did not allow European settlers in the area we now call British Columbia. It also prohibited any missionaries west of Winnipeg. In the 1818 decision, they decided that in order to maintain the social standing of the time, they wanted to maintain aboriginal cultures the way they were, and there were no settlers or missionaries west of Winnipeg.
Many of us have a hard time understanding this. We think of a P3 as when you take a piece of government and you give it out to the private sector. In that time, government itself was given to the private sector, and they ran a very multicultural society. Most of the officials in the Hudson’s Bay Co. married aboriginal women, and this was a technique that was common throughout the area. One thing we note when we look at these ancient records…. We see that there were so many different language groups, so many different tribal groups in the area. Often what they did was that through intermarriage, they
[ Page 14285 ]
would increase their diplomacy, their trade and those kinds of things.
Now, what happened, as far as my reading goes, was that at that time James Douglas was not liked by the settlers. He thought the settlers believed that he was too pro-aboriginal and pro-multicultural. James Douglas invited several hundred African Americans from San Francisco to come to British Columbia to settle. He invited them up, and many of them did come. They stayed, and some of them are still living in British Columbia, although after he was ousted, many of them actually returned to the U.S. because they didn’t find it as welcoming after he was gone.
At that time, there was achange. James Douglas had experienced the loss of the territory south of the 49th parallel. The Hudson’s Bay Co. at that time…. Its main capital was Vancouver — it’s now called Vancouver, Washington — and they governed that territory from there. In 1841, large numbers of U.S. settlers started entering the area. They settled in the southern part of their Pacific territories, and they then advocated for U.S. jurisdiction, that that area should be part of the United States. And in 1846, that actually happened. The British diplomats forfeited that territory under the 49th parallel.
He was concerned that they would then come into the area north of the 49th parallel. He recognized that settlement would have to happen, even though the Hudson’s Bay Co. had opposed it for many decades, so he sent surveyors out to aboriginal First Nations villages, and he asked them to determine their own reserves. He said: “Go out, ask the people what areas they need and what areas they use, and then draw a line around that.”
Then he made a declaration that all people that were settlers and also First Nations could then pre-empt territory off of the reserves. First Nations and non-First Nations could do that.
It wasn’t until after he was ousted in 1864 that this declaration was overturned. From that time on, from 1865 on, only non-First Nations people could pre-empt territory.
It wasn’t until 1872 that we got institutional racism. What happened in 1872 was actually the blossoming of full democracy. We joined Canada, and we became a full democracy.
I was quite shocked by that, originally — to see that democracy and racism should be linked together. I guess when I think about what happened in the U.S…. After they removed the British king, slavery became much more institutionalized and much more a part of the U.S. system.
What happened in 1872, in the very first legislative session, was that the Premier — who was a Douglas supporter, part of the Douglas faction — had a routine bill going to clarify voters, to make sure people would know who was unable to vote. The faction that was run by Amor De Cosmos moved an amendment. They moved an amendment that the words be added that Chinese and native people not be allowed to vote, and because De Cosmos had the majority at that time, it passed.
Premier McCreight protested this. He actually wrote to Ottawa, to the Minister of Justice, and asked if, indeed, this was legal. The minister at that time wrote back and said: “It is legal.”
At that time there were a number of people and a number of government institutions that opposed the racist laws. One of them was the judiciary. Under Judge Begbie, every racist proposal that came to him — laws, bills that were brought to him — he rejected. It wasn’t until he died in 1894 that the head tax could be passed — the head tax of 1895. There was an earlier head tax, but it had never been challenged to him. I think it was a $50 head tax. It had never been sent to him. But when he died in 1894, it became possible for the head tax to be brought in.
Another part of government that opposed the racism was actually the monarchy, through Lord Dufferin, the Governor General. He tried to tone down the racism of the B.C. Parliament, and he was unsuccessful. They had a big problem in London. They had a multicultural empire, and they were quite embarrassed, actually, by what was going on here.
The other part of government that opposed and very strongly took opposition against the racist legislation was the Canadian Senate. It’s quite remarkable to read the commentary coming out of the Senate and how they stood firmly against the racism of both the democracy in British Columbia and the democracy in Canada — both the Parliament of Canada and in British Columbia.
It’s interesting to note that the head tax was introduced by Amor De Cosmos.
He was the head of the faction at that time that changed the law in British Columbia. He had set up the first faction against the Douglas faction — James Douglas’s faction.
Another interesting thing to note is that the very first labour organization in British Columbia, the Working Men’s Protective Association, was run by a guy named Noah Shakespeare. Noah Shakespeare ran this organization, but most of the effort of this union organizing group was against Chinese immigration. In fact, it was so focused on that that they changed the name from the Working Men’s Protective Association to the Anti-Chinese Association — pretty clear what their purposes were.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
It was Amor De Cosmos that got a 1,700-name petition asking for anti-Chinese legislation. It was his group that helped to sway the decision of the B.C. Legislature, and he personally introduced this to the Parliament of Canada.
I note that, as I read some of the old articles in the Times Colonist, I would read some very sympathetic articles about Chinese immigration, about Chinese issues.
[ Page 14286 ]
It was signed by JSH. I couldn’t figure out who that was. Eventually I found out it was John Sebastian Helmcken.
Mr. Helmcken was the son-in-law of James Douglas. It turns out that he was one of the only people to stand up in public, actually attend a royal commission hearing and defend the Chinese. It’s very interesting to see James Douglas and his family consistently supporting a multicultural British Columbia.
It was after that that he was ousted. Many petitions went to London asking for his removal. First of all, the settlers asked for the removal of the government of the Hudson’s Bay Co. They were successful in 1858. Then they asked, repeatedly, for the removal of James Douglas. They thought he was too pro-aboriginal and too pro-multicultural.
Once the law was changed, especially that Chinese and native people could not vote, that is when we went into a period of up to 70 years of pretty seriously racist government. But it was not until that time. I think it’s important for us to clarify that British Columbia was not founded that way. British Columbia was actually steeped in multiculturalism. It was highly sympathetic to multicultural communities, and it wasn’t until we actually got the Legislature fully established that this kind of thing happened.
I’m really pleased to see that we’ve come so far. I note that lots of good things are happening right now. In 2014, the B.C. government announced the funding of $1 million to support the Chinese legacy projects. These were recommended in the Chinese Historical Wrongs Final Report. We’ve got legacy projects commemorating the apology of May 15, 2014. We’ve had a lot of very important developments, like provincially recognizing 21 places of historical significance to the Chinese-Canadian community under the Heritage Conservation Act, contributing $100,000 of legacy funding to the Royal B.C. Museum gold rush exhibit, and lots of other important things that have happened.
I’m very pleased to be able to be part of this Legislature as we come full circle, and we return to some of the values that we originally had. I think it’s important that we recognize what’s going on, what has happened in the province and where we are now, so I’m very pleased to be able to support this.
S. Simpson: I’m pleased to join the debate on Bill 3, the Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to this piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that I fully expect will receive unanimous consent from this House when it comes to a vote in the next day or so.
What this piece of legislation does is take us another step down the path, following the apology to the Chinese community. The bill fulfils a recommendation from the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report and Recommendations, a report to ensure a full repeal of discriminatory legislation by the provincial Legislature after B.C. joined Confederation.
What the report said is that while it’s understood that over 160 pieces of discriminatory legislation have been repealed, a thorough review of the legislation, described in the consultations, should be undertaken to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. A further objective of this legacy initiative would be to ensure that new legislation does not contain racism.
The specific recommendation was: “It is recommended that the government undertake a review of legislation identified in the consultation to ensure it has been repealed, and to review legislation procedures to demonstrate that British Columbia does not have, nor will it ever produce, racist legislation again.”
This has been a process since the apology, and it has been quite a comprehensive process. I thank the minister for the introduction of this legislation. We know that this — and this doesn’t always happen in this place — has been a collaborative effort. It has been a collaborative effort with the government doing what it’s done and with my colleagues on this side — the member for Vancouver-Kingsway, the member for Surrey-Whalley and the previous member for Mount Pleasant, Jenny Kwan — having done extensive work. They presented, on behalf of the official opposition, a compendium of discriminatory legislation that was identified by that committee, and that became part of the consultation and the discussion as well.
As I said, we don’t always collaborate in this House on things, but this is something where we have. I think everybody has willingly and thankfully collaborated on it. This legislation will pass, and it’s a good thing.
It was a pleasure the other day, when the minister introduced this legislation, to have a number of representatives of the Chinese community here to witness the introduction of Bill 3 and to be able to know, with confidence, that there is full attention to this by all members of this Legislature and that we will proceed, and proceed with diligence, to make sure that this bill passes. More importantly, to that extent, we, as the people here — and, hopefully, the people who will come after us — will ensure that we never put racist legislation on the books of this province again.
I want to talk a little bit about that. I’m very, very pleased that this is going to correct a historical wrong. We in this province, at times, I think, have got smug. We get smug when we look at other places in the world, when we look at other places where issues of race and discrimination occur. We don’t have a lot to be smug about in this province when we look back at our history.
There are numerous incidents that stand out, but there are four that I’d like to just comment about a little bit, as I talk about where we go from here. As has been said by other members, unless we learn from our past, the likelihood of repeating it is significant.
These are all matters that we have apologized for in some way, shape or form. There has been redress and, in some cases, compensation for the conduct of our government here in British Columbia and the national government, at different times.
In 1914, the Komagata Maru. We will know that this was a Japanese vessel that had 376 passengers — primarily Sikhs, some Muslims, some Hindus. It came into the port of Vancouver on May 23, 1914, and wasn’t allowed to dock. The Premier of the day, Premier McBride, was clear that he was not going to allow this vessel to dock. We saw demonstrations about not allowing this vessel to dock.
We also, it should be said, saw demonstrations of people in support of the folks who were on that vessel, who were looking to come and create a new life for themselves here in Canada.
That was race-based. It was about nothing but race. We know that it was a very, very difficult time. Of those 376 passengers, 352 were turned away because of race. After sitting in the port, in Burrard Inlet, for two months, that vessel was turned away, largely forced by the navy to leave.
It is a shameful time in our history and a time that we in British Columbia and the national government should do more than regret. And I know that we have. I know there has been recognition about the terrible injustices of the Komagata Maru.
From 1941 to 1949, we interned Japanese Canadians in British Columbia during the war — not folks of Japanese descent but Japanese Canadians. Twenty-one thousand Japanese Canadians were interned in this country.
Families were separated. They were broken apart. I know that in my constituency, the Pacific National Exhibition, Hastings Park, was an internment facility, mostly a processing facility. People were obliged to live in the barns and the stables there. Their property was taken away from them. Their homes were taken away from them, and in many cases, they never, ever saw any of that again.
This, again, was a case of people being identified simply by their race. The argument was that somehow these good Canadians, who happened to be of Japanese descent, were a threat to our country because of their race. No other reason.
Their lives were ripped apart. Their families were ripped apart. They were forced out of their homes. They were taken to different places in British Columbia, in Saskatchewan. Many of them, thankfully, were able to come back.
I had the good pleasure, with the Japanese-Canadian association of British Columbia, to be able to participate in the erection of some memorials and some tributes at the Pacific National Exhibition, in a hope that people will not forget what we did when we interned people and ripped them apart from their homes. That was racism. It was nothing else.
The Chinese head tax. We’ve heard a lot, and the member previous spoke eloquently and gave a lot of history about the sense of how we came about that. I thank him for that. We know that that started when, in 1878, the government of British Columbia attempted to ban Chinese people from British Columbia. The courts overturned that because it was ultra vires; it was outside the authority of the province to do that.
But it didn’t take long. Just a few years — six, seven years — later, 1885, the Chinese Immigration Act was passed, and a head tax was introduced. As the member previous said, it started at $50 a head. Very quickly, by 1904, it was $500 a head. It essentially said that Chinese men could come here to work if they paid a price, but of course, wives and children were seriously discouraged from coming and didn’t have the opportunity to come.
So 81,000 people in our country were impacted by that — about 81,000 people. That tax stayed in place for a while. In 1923, the tax ended, but it ended by essentially banning Chinese people entirely, and that was really only repealed and overturned in 1948.
Again, this was about race. It was about nothing else. It is another shameful example that people who sat in this place and sat in the House of Commons are responsible for, and we need to learn from that. We cannot be smug about it. We need to learn.
The other example, which again was entirely about race, wasn’t about people coming here; it was about the residential schools. We know that, starting in 1884 and moving forward — in Saskatchewan, right into the 1990s — the government established the Indian residential schools. They allowed them to be run by the churches, and their objective was to take the Indian out of First Nations kids. Their objective for these 150,000 or so children that went through the residential schools was to take the Indian out of them. Six thousand of those kids died in those schools.
As the Indian commissioner said when he was talking at the time about why it was important to discourage those children from going back and seeing their families and their parents, it was because it slowed down the process of civilizing those children. It slowed down the process of civilizing them if you allowed them to go back and spend time with their families.
We know the tragedy of the residential schools. It is, along with these other instances, one of the true blights on this country. It is one of the most shameful things about this country. We know about the physical abuse. We know about the sexual abuse.
If we can be thankful about anything, we know about the extraordinary courage of our First Nations people to overcome that and to have the place they have in our society today, where there is very little that we do internationally, globally or at any level, when we want to celebrate who we are, that we don’t put the First Nations people right at the forefront of that celebration and that we don’t use those First Nations people to help identify who we are and who we want to become.
[ Page 14288 ]
But in the residential schools, we were trying to take that Indian out of those kids. We were trying to civilize those kids.
That’s four examples. They’re examples that I believe everybody — I would certainly hope and believe — in this room, that sits in this place, would agree are shameful parts of our history that we need to overcome, that we desire to overcome and that we want to make sure we never, ever repeat.
We need to be very careful about that. We need to because we are in a difficult time when it comes to race today. We are seeing what’s happening in the United States. We are seeing the actions of the President of the United States around the immigration bans. We all see the stories about people in the United States who feel that they have been validated around racist behaviour and that it’s okay — that racist behaviour. We see it every night on the news.
Today, just in the last few days, we’re watching the debate around European elections as they start to move forward, as white nationalist parties start to assert themselves and increasingly look like they’re gaining traction in countries throughout Europe — parties whose fundamental belief is: “You need to keep those people out of our country and keep our country white.”
We need to fight that. We need to be vigilant, and we need to never, ever feel that we have overcome this and put it behind us.
In our own country, we don’t have to look back very far to look at the death of five innocent Muslims in Quebec, killed in a mosque for praying. We don’t need to look back more than a few days to bomb threats against our Jewish brothers and sisters in this province. We read about that happening in other countries. We see it here. We all know the stories of the leaflets that fly around in our neighbourhoods and end up on the windows of cars about who shouldn’t be here.
This is a difficult time, and it is a time which makes it also even more important that we pass this legislation with determination and with loud voices. But it is a time, after we pass this legislation, when we not be too pleased with ourselves about that, that we reaffirm and redouble our commitment to make sure that every member of this House — as leaders in our communities, as leaders in this province — steps up whenever we hear the bigotry and the racism that is bubbling and percolating globally and that, sadly, is also in this province in a very real way. That’s our responsibility.
I’m pleased to support this bill. I’m pleased to have heard great comments from members on both sides of this House about the importance of correcting historic wrongs. I’m grateful to hear the comments of members on both sides of this House about the determination that we have to move forward in an inclusive way.
I mostly want to just really implore the members here and those who are watching — probably the six or eight people who are watching us right now — that we need to stay vigilant about this. We cannot allow ourselves to rest on this issue.
We are a proud people in British Columbia. I know that on Canada Day, I’m always proud to stand up, when I get a chance to say a few words at celebrations, to talk about how our strength is our multiculturalism. Our strength in this country and this province is our ability to bring people from diverse backgrounds together and to allow them to embrace their own culture and to embrace Canada too — and to bring that together in a way that not all countries in the world have been successful in doing.
The success of that has to be that we will defend and protect that. We will defend and protect our multiculturalism, and we will stand together and defend and protect those people, whether it’s the Chinese, the Japanese, the Jews, the Muslims or First Nations. Collectively, we will stand up and say: “We are all in this together. We are all equal. We all share the same rights and responsibilities. We all share the same benefits. And we all have a right to be here and to believe what we believe, to pray to who we want to pray to, to be whatever colour we are.”
Only if we do that, hopefully, a hundred years from now, whoever is sitting in this place will say: “You know, back in 2017, when they passed this bill, they got it right. They got it right, and we’ve been making progress ever since.”
If we do that, this will be a great day not just for passing Bill 3, but a great day because our determination is reflected in moving forward to make sure that we don’t allow those tragic situations, which caused this bill to come about, to happen again.
I’m pleased to have the opportunity to be part of this debate.
Hon. C. Oakes: I feel privileged today to rise in this House and to speak in support of Bill 3, the Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act. Previously in the House, I’ve talked proudly about the pioneers who have built our country and our province, and today is an opportunity for us to pay tribute and recognize those pioneers and recognize the changes that this repeal act will provide.
I’d like to join colleagues on both sides of the House in recognizing this bill as a historical landmark in British Columbia and as an important part of addressing historical wrongs. I would like to thank my friend and my colleague the Minister of International Trade for her commitment on these efforts.
This bill follows the official apology in this Legislature which took place on May 15, 2014, and it comes as the result of a comprehensive review of existing government legislation, during which government staff examined nearly 2,000 pieces of legislation — legislation that has spanned from 1871, when British Columbia joined Confederation, to 1982, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced federally.
[ Page 14289 ]
While the review, importantly, showed that most of the legislation is not discriminatory, government found 19 private acts that still contained discriminatory provisions, and many of those private acts pertained to the Cariboo region: section 12 of an act granting to John Adair Jr. and Joseph Hunter the right to erect a dam at the outlet of the Quesnel Lake and to mine the bed of the South Fork River and other lands; section 6 of an act to authorize the granting of a licence to prospect for gold over certain lands in the Cariboo district, with a contingent lease for a portion of the said lands; section (j), an act respecting Lightning Creek Gold Gravels and Drainage Co.; and section (k), section 30 of an act to confirm an agreement between Her Majesty in right of the province of British Columbia and Frank Owen and William John Stokes, and to incorporate the Cariboo-Omineca Chartered Co.
I read these because so many of these had, really, a foundation in my family moving into the Cariboo and their experiences of travelling as immigrants into the Cariboo.
These provisions cannot be used today to legally enforce discrimination, and all British Columbians are protected from legislated discrimination through human rights legislation, which is so critically important. But nevertheless, the 19 provisions that the review identified are symbols of a dark period in British Columbia’s history, and it’s important that they be repealed. This bill will allow us to do just that. There is no place in British Columbia for this type of legislation.
Unfortunately, the Cariboo historically saw legislated discrimination in action, which members from both sides of this House have raised. During the gold rush era, Chinese workers arrived in Barkerville with hopes of securing a prosperous future for themselves and for their families. However, these workers were subjected to unfair treatment, which was enforced by legislation. Discriminatory treatment was not confined just to the Cariboo. Unfortunately, we have seen it in different parts of the province in various forms.
I’d like to take a moment, if I may, to talk about the tremendous legacy that the Chinese community has made in the Cariboo. I’ve talked about my grandfather’s family before in this House — the Oakeses, who arrived in the Cariboo on a railway grant — and I’ll get to that in a moment. My grandmother’s family, the Muffords and the Timms, arrived from Fort Langley — quite an affluent family who decided to strike out into the Cariboo in 1936 because they had a passion just to do something a little adventurous and a little different.
When they rose into the Cariboo and they lived through the…. They arrived in September, and my grandmother tells the story of when they got to their homestead, which was not much of a homestead. It was a one-room shack where they could see through the ceiling. There was an early winter snowfall that arrived that first year they came, in 1936. They were very ill-equipped for that winter that came to them.
My family had the true privilege to meet C.D. Hoy. Many of us know him today because he was an internationally renowned photographer who captured so brilliantly the time of the mid-1800s into the 1900s. He told the story of what it meant to homestead and to prospect. He took photos in Barkerville and throughout the entire Cariboo.
The Hoy family also owned a grocery store. What was interesting about the grocery store was that many of the pioneers that came into the Cariboo often did not have money to purchase goods. The Hoy family, as my grandmother loves to share with us, really helped save their family that first winter. They were allowed to take on sale that…. They could have food and were really supported. Now times have definitely changed. It made such a huge impact to my family, and I know I would like to pay tribute to them as well.
As well, my family, my grandmother, worked at the Nam Sing Ranch, one of the 21 historical Canadian sites that we are recognizing and paying tribute to. Later on, my grandmother’s brother, Lorne Mufford, purchased the Sing ranch. When I read through the policies, and when we have the true privilege to stand in this House and to talk about acts and repealing things…. To understand how clearly it has changed our family’s life is very, very impactful.
Some of the 19 provisions that also were being repealed had to do with the railway. I had mentioned previously in the House that on the Oakes side, the family moved to the Cariboo on a railway grant. We were raised in Moose Heights, which is part of the famous 15 miles north of Quesnel where they…. For so many years, the PGE Railway line tried to cross Cottonwood. It has a fascinating history. For anyone who’s a history buff, I highly encourage you to read that.
We also grew up where…. At one time, there were 700 workers in that area that were trying to build that last piece of the railway. If you wander through our family’s farms — our family had a lot of ranching territory at the time — you can still find the ditches that were brought forward to support that many families. You can often find a Chinese coin. If you go out near where the old Cottonwood rail bridge is, there are some wonderful artifacts that I highly encourage people, if you have the chance, to go and explore.
The Chinese community left a significant legacy in the Cariboo, and they helped to build not just the Cariboo but the province as we know it today. When you review some of the acts and some of the pieces where the Chinese workers were not allowed to own land or where there were discriminatory acts on the mining front — at a time when they would be discriminated against but so passionate about giving back to the community and
[ Page 14290 ]
building a future for them and their families — it is very, very remarkable.
In 2014, we announced the Chinese legacy projects following the Legislature’s apology. These funds help — supported by $1 million in funding — address one of the recommendations contained within the Chinese historical wrongs findings report. Projects include celebrating Canadian heritage and achievements and focus on public education and awareness. Education and awareness are so critical to ensure that we do not follow previous wrongs. They take various forms, supplementing our curriculum and fostering further learning about Chinese Canadians.
I am so proud and privileged to have the Minister of International Trade travelling to Barkerville shortly to recognize the historic contributions of the Chinese community in Barkerville. Barkerville historic site is absolutely one of the gems of British Columbia. My ask of everyone in the House and for anyone who is watching….
I know, Grandma, you’re probably watching.
I’d like to encourage everyone to come and take that journey to Barkerville and to understand the significance of what this historic site has. It has one of the largest collections of Chinese artifacts from the 1800s anywhere in North America. It’s a significant piece that we are protecting. As a provincial government, we recognize how valuable this historic site is, and we want to make sure that we share that with everyone in British Columbia.
I was also so proud to recognize when the Chee Kung Tong — a Chinese Freemasons building, the oldest Chinese surviving heritage structure in British Columbia — was recognized several years ago. Lily Chow was there. It was recognized as a Canadian Heritage site. I was incredibly proud. I think that the Heritage Conservation Act, including the important historical sites within the Cariboo, is very important for now and for the future.
Other areas, like Quesnel Forks — an area where Chinese railway workers settled in the beginning of the Cariboo gold rush and after building the Canadian Pacific Railway. I encourage everyone — they have really developed the Quesnel Forks area — to go and visit. If you stop in Likely, they have some of the best pie you’ll ever have. So there’s just an encouragement to go visit there.
I had mentioned before the Nam Sing Ranch in Quesnel, which was one of the earliest pieces of land owned by Chinese Canadians — an important part of our province’s agricultural foundation. I’m very, very proud that our family had the privilege to work with the Sing family. They were dear to our family.
Finally, Ahbau Creek, Lake and Bridge near Quesnel — associated with a successful Chinese-Canadian miner, Ah Bau — as well as a large homestead and school that developed in the area. All these sites you can still come and visit. Canada’s 150th birthday — what better way to celebrate it than coming and seeing some of these important historical sites that we have right here in our magnificent province? These sites occupy a significant place in our province’s history.
In closing and as a whole, the legacy projects fulfil important purposes, both for learning today and into the future. I am so pleased our government is able to support them.
This bill is part of a series of measures that seek to address historical wrongs against Chinese Canadians. It sends an important signal that discriminatory legislation and discrimination in any of its various forms have absolutely no place in British Columbia. It’s important that we continue to work together to build a more inclusive province. It’s important for us to always recognize the legacy our pioneers have left before us. I’m so proud to support this legislation, which works towards just that.
L. Krog: I’m very pleased to rise today to speak to the Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act.
On February 24, 1924, in this very city, a woman delivered a son. In 1953, that son graduated from the University of British Columbia with both a BA and an LLB. It’s rather queer, in its context, that one should be getting a BA and an LLB at the same time, but there is a bit of an historical explanation for that.
Subsequent to that, this individual ran for parliament and got elected to the House of Commons representing Vancouver Centre. He was called to the bar of British Columbia in 1954. But when he was born, he was…. As the material will describe it, he was born without legal status.
Now, what did that mean? He was born without legal status. What it meant was that, notwithstanding he was born in British Columbia, he wasn’t a Canadian citizen because his family was Chinese. His name was Douglas Jung. It wasn’t until 1947 that the franchise was granted to those Chinese Canadians, if you will, as we used to use the term.
He was the first visible minority Member of Parliament in Canada. I mean this as no slight to the Liberals — I know they’re all listening to my words: the reason he ran for the Progressive Conservative Party was because the Liberals had passed so many racist laws aimed at discriminating against the Chinese and the Asiatics and the Japanese. Now, we’re talking about the federal Liberals, so I don’t want to diminish from the importance of this.
But imagine that — and without putting too fine a point on it — within my own lifetime. Within my own lifetime, the first visible minority, the first Chinese Canadian gets elected to the Parliament of Canada. I wish I could remember that line of William Faulkner’s about the past not even being past. The past is still very much with us.
Many members have spoken earlier today, very eloquently, around this issue and why it’s important. It’s important for me because I represent a constituency that is
[ Page 14291 ]
intimately tied up with the history of the Chinese who came to this country decades and decades ago. As it is, my own community in Coombs, where I was raised, initially, was tied up with the Sikhs, who came to this country over 100 years ago.
I’ll touch on a few things, if I may. Nanaimo, at one time, had the second-largest Chinatown in British Columbia. A significant Chinese population, brought to work in the mines, and coal mining was an integral part of this province’s history.
The reason we had coal mining in this province was because a First Nations leader referred to now as Coal Tyee, whose bust you can find in Nanaimo Harbour when you get off the seaplane, took this black rock to Governor Douglas, in Victoria, who understood immediately the importance of it. It was indeed the presence of that black rock, coal, given by the aboriginals, who were in the process of losing all of their rights as the first occupants of this land, that led to the establishment of Victoria as a major naval base for the British Empire.
In Nanaimo, if you took your family for a little trip to beautiful Newcastle Island, a provincial park…. If you look at the map, you’ll be able to visit the site of the Japanese saltery, part of history that is largely gone. If you look through the collection of my family’s photographs — my mother’s, who taught school in Coombs in the late ’30s, before she married in the early ’40s — you will see the pictures of little Japanese-Canadian kids. But of course, we know what happened there.
Those kids disappeared to the Interior. You won’t find them in any photographs after 1942.
We all grew up in communities where we had some experience with the residential scooping. A family up the road who were distantly related to me had a little aboriginal girl. Imagine how difficult it must have been for her, growing up in a community where we were, literally, all white. The Japanese were gone. We weren’t big enough to have anyone of Chinese descent.
The first South Asian, to my recollection, living in the area — because the others had left a long time ago — was a kid who was probably suited to be in grade 8 or 9 but didn’t speak English. He was staying with a woman in Coombs so he could learn some English and was placed in a grade 3 class.
I have in my possession, at home, a wonderful picture of Coombs in the early days of the great logging boom that shows what is known as the Hindu mill, a big operation. It’s literally gone now, like the saltery on Newcastle — gone.
Of course, the workers there were Sikhs, and that’s why it was called the Hindu mill. In those primitive times, no one discriminated, in a sense, between whether you were Hindu or Sikh; you were just some of those Asian folks. Indians.
This is all part of the oral history that I grew up with, the practical history that I experienced as a child.
Growing up in a progressive household, I was aware of the fact that there was this guy from Vancouver called Douglas Jung — to come back to where I began — and that he was an important person because he had broken down that barrier.
Not much beyond my life span, people who were born in this country were born without legal status. They couldn’t act as lawyers, couldn’t go to medical schools, couldn’t join any professions, couldn’t sit in the Legislature and couldn’t vote. All of those things are an intimate part of our history.
What we do today with this bill — it will pass, of course — is we engage in a symbolic act. It is a way of saying that what happened was wrong. But it is important that it be acknowledged, that it become part of the history that all British Columbians are taught and know.
I mean, let’s be blunt. I don’t think we’re terribly worried about the New Westminster Electric Light and Motor Power Co. anymore. But if you were Chinese in 1890 and you wanted to find work, it was important.
The acts referred to in this bill talk about three classes, essentially — the Chinese, the Japanese and Asiatics. It all amounted to the same thing.
When I started law school in 1976, constitutional law was a required first-year course. Yes, I can see the member from one of those Surrey ridings is doing the calculations now, trying to figure out my age because I look so young. But that’s a point for another day.
Constitutional law was a required first-year course, and I must say, as a British Columbian, that we made a lot of work for the Supreme Court of Canada and the Privy Council. In the early days, the final court of appeal, of course, was the Privy Council, the Law Lords in Great Britain.
We made a lot of work for those folks, because this Legislature, of all legislatures in the country, was busy passing the most horrific, racist laws. This was against the backdrop of a consistent set of laws that were denying the existence of aboriginal title, culture, language and religious practices — you name it. British Columbia’s history is not one to be proud of, when we talk about this aspect of it.
So today we recognize, acknowledge and apologize, in a sense, for what’s gone on in the past. But as the member for Vancouver-Hastings said earlier, we’ve got to be really conscious of what is happening around us as we see the rise of those right-wing parties, as we hear candidates for the leadership of the party, which was the party that was first elected to power and that gave us our first Prime Minister.
When leadership candidates for that party nationally talk about a test for Canadian values — gosh — what era do you want to choose? Do you want to choose the era in which this legislation was passed, from the 1880s through to 1930? Do those represent Canadian values?
Do you want to talk about the time that Doug Jung was born in Victoria without legal status? Do you want
[ Page 14292 ]
to talk about the Komagata Maru? Do you want to talk about the disenfranchisement of people who should have otherwise had the right to vote? What period do you want to talk about?
The fact that a major political party has a serious contender for its leadership using that kind of language should give us all pause for reflection.
It is not sufficient to hold your beliefs to yourself and to exercise them and to treat every human being you meet with the dignity and respect that they inherently deserve. It is important to speak out and be heard. You must choose your sides. You must be prepared to defend that which is right and argue with those who are wrong.
On the issue of human rights, this province’s history is not one, as I say, to be proud of. But the fact we gather here today and are enabled to speak what we wish in this Legislature, with many members who are not all white, like me — that’s a great, great comment on how far we’ve come. A long ways to go, a very long ways to go, because that dark side is still there.
To use the words that have been bandied about so much lately in the United States…. It’s a line from Lincoln, speaking about the better angels of our nature. We should all exercise that right — and, I would indeed argue, obligation — to appeal to the better angels of our nature.
If we are to be what I’ve always believed this country to be, the best country in the world, for a whole series of reasons that I will not pretend to enumerate here…. If I’m to believe it, it has to be practised, and it has to be real. It has to be reflected in our daily lives.
I commend the government for bringing this forward, notwithstanding it has a cynical political ring to it this close to a provincial election. I’m never far from politics. But the opportunity to recognize, in a public way, that what happened before was wrong and that we are moving forward, is always a good thing.
I’m delighted by the opportunity to be able to speak in a Legislature filled with members of diversity and diverse views. Let us just hope that those in the world who are succumbing now to those darker forces that wish to blame the other…. Let us hope that by our example here in British Columbia, which is a wonderful part of this great country that is so diverse…. Let us hope that here, by our example, we can demonstrate that humanity, regardless of your colour, can co-exist, can love one another, can work together.
You know the line from Shakespeare: “If you prick me, do I not bleed?” We’re all of the same blood. We all have that same opportunity. It is only through discrimination that we make choices to pretend that we’re really different. We’re all part of humanity.
Today, as I close, I look forward to further remarks from some of the other members who I know are anxious to speak today and who are going to follow. They will bring their own unique perspective to what it is to be a British Columbian and a Canadian and reflect on the nature of the legislation that we are going to pass — what it says about our past and, indeed, by doing what we’re doing today, what it says about our future.
H. Bains: It is an honour, especially, to speak on this bill, Bill 3, Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act.
I say it is very, very important personally to me because of my personal experiences. Mr. Speaker, I’m sure you went through your personal experiences. In 1971, June 15, I landed in Vancouver. This was the land of milk and honey, we had heard. Of course, when you walked out of the airport, you were impressed with the scenery, with the setup, the cleanliness — and, in the beginning, a very friendly people too.
I found that most people were friendly. But there are some experiences that…. I was about 19 when I came. We had dreams. But I started to experience there were going to be obstacles to achieve those dreams.
Why I say that is that there wasn’t a day that you would drive from New Westminster, where we used to live, to go have fun in Vancouver, that somebody wouldn’t give you the finger or call you an effing Hindu and many other names. You learned to live with it, because how many people are you going to fight every day? It’s not the way to do it. So we experienced that.
Then we started to read the history. Some of the elders who were here before us…. They started to tell us, “Things are not as bad, my son, as what we experienced” — those who came before us. Then they would give us a history lesson on what happened when they first came. Those who made it to Canada were not allowed to bring their families. Then it was turned into the law. People who look like me — they were trying to keep them out of Canada. But those who were here…. They found a way to deal with them.
I’ll read some real scripts of the day from the elected politicians. They say: “Because they belong to the British Empire, we cannot keep them out, but we have a way to deal with those who are here. We have the right to take their right to vote away.” And they did. They did.
First, in 1885, Chinese Canadians. They were disenfranchised. Then, in 1895, Japanese Canadians were added to the list. Then followed, in 1907, the South Asians, but they call them Hindus. The bill in 1907 was called an Act to Amend the Provincial Elections Act. This is chapter 16. The explanatory note says: “Amend section 6. No Hindus to be placed on registrar of voters.”
That followed, in 1920…. The new electoral law said that if a province discriminates a group by reason of race, that group would also be excluded from federal franchise. As such, Chinese, Japanese and South Asians lost their right to vote in the national elections. I might add that our First Nations, aboriginals, were also added to that list — at the first time, in 1885.
[ Page 14293 ]
During the same time, it really escalated. You probably heard — those who read some history — that in 1907, not only was this legislation passed to add Hindus to the exclusionary list of the voters list, but also you would remember the race riots of Chinatown where many people in Bellingham, in Blaine…. They came from Seattle. They came and just barged in on our Chinese and Japanese Canadians in the Chinatown. The law enforcement people just sat there and watched. In fact, many of the Chinese and Japanese who were trying to defend themselves were charged.
Those are some of the incidents, part of our dark history in British Columbia. That’s what we learned from those folks who came before us.
So many people worked hard and struggled to bring some equality back. As such, in 1947, Chinese and South Asians were given the right to vote. In 1949, Japanese Canadians were given the right to vote. Also, First Nations in British Columbia were allowed to vote in 1949 — but federally, not until 1960. That’s our history.
Just personally, I can tell you, one of the reasons why I’m here may have something to do with that dark history that we are talking about. I started working at Eburne sawmills in 1973.
At that time, there was only a handful of South Asians — or, for that matter, any visible minorities — at Eburne sawmills, owned by Canfor, one of the largest mills on the south coast here in the Lower Mainland. It was surprising because many other mills had a majority, or a lot, of South Asians and Chinese as workers and in the camps. But there we had only maybe a dozen or so out of 650.
When the union negotiated a preferential hiring clause…. I believe it was in 1972, when Nalos Lumber got shut down in the False Creek area. Some of those workers ended up at Eburne sawmills before me, and then they started to hire more of us.
One day we walked into this lunchroom. It was one of the smaller lunchrooms, and we called it the No. 2 chain lunchroom. We walked in there. I can vividly still remember the picture, written in the chalk that we used to mark the lumber for grades and the sticks that we used in between the rows to build a load of lumber, three sticks. The first one says: “Hindu curry stinks.” The second one says: “White man’s lunchroom.” The third one says: “Hindus stay out.”
I didn’t know what to do. Somebody said: “Why don’t you call the union? We have a union here.” Brother Garth Brown, God bless his soul. I know some of the people here know him. He came. He called the manager over and said: “This is wrong. This must stop. It’s your responsibility as a manager that no worker be subjected to this kind of exploitation or abuse.”
Both sides actually put their heads together. “How are we going to change this?” And they changed it. Then they asked me: “Why don’t you get involved in the union as a shop steward?” Young and crazy, I said yes.
The next thing I know, I’m being nominated as a person to run on the committee. Then we were young, and we said: “Well, we don’t have time. But you know what? This guy is after us, so I’m going to shut him up by saying yes. But who’s going to vote for me?” There are 650 workers, and there is only a handful of coloured people, the South Asians especially.
To my surprise — and also to my, I would say, astonishment — out of the 14 people running, I came fifth after the election. That gave me hope that most people are good people.
I became a shop steward, and then that led to me becoming plant chairperson. Then I went to the local union and became a worker’s advocate and an activist. That also instilled in me that work needed to be done about improving our human rights in British Columbia, and I started to get involved in politics as a result of that.
Now, let me go back again. What led to all of that? After 1947, when the South Asians were given the right to vote, there was no one who was allowed to practise in their own profession before that.
Dr. Gurdev Gill is still alive today — the first medical graduate from UBC to practise medicine in British Columbia. He’s still here. Niranjan Singh Grewall was the first person elected to any political office, as a mayor of Mission. From then, it took a long time until Setty Pendakur, as those from Vancouver will know, was the first South Asian elected to council in the early ’70s. Then it wasn’t until Moe Sihota, who was elected in 1986…. That gave everyone courage and also the direction that we actually can make it. We actually can do it.
Move forward to June of 2005, when I first got elected. It became very emotional, knowing that history. When I came here, my name was on this chair. I started to reflect back. I started to reflect back because I read some of the commentary being made by people who occupied these same chairs.
Here’s one. This was Mr. Bowser, who introduced the 1907 bill. This is what he had to say in support of that. I’m just quoting parts of it.
“Despite this, he hoped that the hon. members on the opposite side of the House would break away….” He’s challenging the Liberals on the other side, because they were conservative, to break away from the federal Liberal Party and support the amendment which he had introduced.
“The Hindus did not speak the English language. They were not conversant with the laws of the country and, altogether, could not be deemed to have a sufficient, intelligent knowledge of the condition to exercise influence in the government of the province.” It was his desire to “keep ‘this white man’s country for the white man,’” and there was loud applause here.
[ Page 14294 ]
Knowing what was being said from the same chairs, both sides…. That motion, that legislation, was passed unanimously in this House.
Those were the people who were talking about keeping people that look like me out of the country, first, and for those who were here, to defranchise them from their right to vote. And here I am. I will be sitting here to help to make laws in this House. How far we have come. That certainly was emotional.
[R. Lee in the chair.]
I tell you, those people who fought long and hard to give us the right to vote and bring equality to this province would be proud. They aren’t around, but they would be proud to see the change, the positive change that they dreamed about.
They were actually told at one time: “We will move you to Honduras.” Actually, a delegation of the South Asian group was taken to Honduras, trying to convince them that that country “actually is suitable for you, not Canada, so we will move you all to Honduras.” Those brave souls — my head bows to them; otherwise, I wouldn’t be here today — came back and recommended to the community: “No, that country doesn’t belong to us. This is the country that belongs to us, and we will, despite those racist, discriminatory laws, work to make this country a better place for all of us and our children and their children to live in.” As a result, we are who we are today as Canadians.
I just want to say that in 1972 — that was a year after I came in — the covenant still existed. I think some of those covenants still exist. I think Bill 3 will take care of that. In some parts of some cities, coloured people were not allowed to purchase that property. Those covenants still exist on the title today.
When we asked this government, “Why don’t we eliminate that?” they said: “It will take too much work.” Nothing is too much, if we are to change the society, where every person feels equal. There shouldn’t be any cost to it. There shouldn’t be any time to it that limits us moving in that direction.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to tell you that many of the discriminatory laws will be wiped off. I think all of them will be wiped off the books with this legislation.
I’m so proud that this is the legislation that came up with those 160-plus discriminatory laws — from keeping us out or from taking a right to vote or from practising our own professions or purchasing property in certain parts of certain cities. I feel so proud that I will be part of the group that actually is wiping that slate clean and moving forward so that we can look in the eyes of our children and their children — that we did it together. I think that is so important.
But you know what? Those are so overt and openly discriminatory laws — in the legislation that we’re talking about and the policies.
I go back to the 1990s. I was a union rep in my local union. Some of the members who were laid off from the mills would go and apply at B.C. Transit, which used to run the buses in the Lower Mainland, but they would not get hired. Out of about 2,000 or 3,000 drivers who would run our buses, there were only about a dozen people of colour. They would tell them, “No, there’s no job,” but then they would continue to hire others who applied after them. Some of them are my friends, who came from England and who were driving buses there for years, but they were denied the right to be hired as a bus driver.
I want to say this too. Glen Clark and the government of the day…. I remember him coming to my office on Commercial Drive and asking: “What’s going on?” He was on his trip to Victoria, and he had a few minutes and came to drop by and say hello. I said: “Look. Something’s wrong here, Glen. You take a look at the people who are driving the buses. They do not reflect the society that we represent.” He said: “You’ve got it, Harry.”
They went back and put together a special committee to hire, not only at the B.C. Transit but B.C. Hydro and B.C. Ferries…. When you hire, when you go through the vetting process, make sure that they are qualified, but they must reflect the society that we represent.
You know what? One of my good friends, my union vice-president, Don Jantzen, was on that committee. He came back a few months later and said: “Harry, you would be proud that we hired ten new drivers. We are giving them a tour of the facility. Six of them are visible minorities.”
I’m talking about the 1990s. You move forward to this decade. We have laws that prohibit discrimination on many bases. But if you don’t put enough resources behind it to enforce that law, then we are just as guilty as what these legislations have done. The end result is the same. We’ve seen, in this case, ten years of fights through a human rights tribunal about how veterinarians’ complaints were dealt with. The Human Rights Tribunal ruled that there is systemic discrimination against these South Asian veterinarians. I’m talking about just recent history.
We need to always, as a society, look at…. If one of us feels less equal, I think no one is equal and no one should feel equal. If one of them feels the pain of discrimination, we should all feel the pain of that person.
I’m so happy that the members of both sides are actually putting their minds to it, and I want to help thank the minister for bringing this legislation in. Thank you so much. I think it will certainly close that chapter, because you could still visualize this.
I also want to mention Jack Uppal, who just passed away, the sawmill owner of Goldwood Industries. I had many fights with that man, because we were both on the opposite end of the table. I was a union rep, and he was the owner. But I’ll tell you, we had many discussions about the past. There wasn’t a time that he would pass in mentioning…. He said: “You know, Son, this is nothing to do with the law. This is all political.”
[ Page 14295 ]
He said that when they were growing up and were trying to bring some equality into the system — I know that the Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness also mentioned it in this House — when their elders, the people who came before us, were trying to get equal rights, CCF was the only one who would stand with them. This is according to Jack Uppal. This is according to the minister of state here in this House.
When I was looking at which party I should belong to, I looked at the history, as well, of different parties. That 1907 legislation was passed unanimously by Conservatives and Liberals here. But I also came across a Vancouver Sun where there was a campaign for an election going on. A new party was emerging.
Both Conservatives and Liberals, in their platforms, said that they would maintain the status quo, which means continue to deny the right to vote to Chinese, Japanese, South Asians and First Nations. The CCF said: “We stand for equality. We really do not care whether we win or lose. We are here to change society.” I want to thank them for that.
Many other progressive-minded people fought to change society for the better. As a result, we are right now enjoying a much better society, a much more inclusive society than what they felt, what they experienced.
I want to say thank you so much, Minister, and thank you to all the members who stood up and spoke on this. There’s so much history here. We don’t have time to go into all of that, but I just want to say that all of that will be wiped out now with this piece of legislation, and we will be moving forward.
We will be closing that dark chapter of British Columbia’s political history. I will be feeling proud, when I leave this House one day and sit in my rocking chair, that I was part of that group of legislators who actually wiped our slate clean of discriminatory laws and that we moved forward as a better society. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
M. Elmore: I’m very pleased to rise and speak in support of Bill 3, the Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act. I’ll be in support, and I’m very pleased that we’ll have support right across the House for this important bill.
This bill fulfils a recommendation from the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report and Recommendations to ensure a full repeal of discriminatory legislation brought forward by the provincial Legislature of B.C. after joining Confederation. This is following a review of legislation enacted between 1871 and 1982. Bill 3 repeals discriminatory provisions that remain technically in effect in a number of private acts. This is the latest measure to right historical wrongs committed against our Chinese community here in British Columbia.
I’m going to get into some remarks in terms of the origins of these…. We’ve had some debate in terms of: what were the origins of these bills? How could they have come up in our province? In terms of this bill, I just want to recognize that this is a great project, and I’m certainly in full support of the bill.
The history behind the project to right historical wrongs forms a dark chapter in B.C.’s recent political past. It hails from the quick-win scandal that exposed the B.C. Liberals. The original primary motivation to issue a formal apology to the Chinese community for past discriminatory treatment was made to manipulate voters in ethnic communities ahead of the 2013 election.
Having said that, certainly, going forward, I think the importance of this act is recognized, and I support that. The origins…. I want to just remark on my colleague from Vancouver-Kingsway, who undertook a review in terms of doing a history and doing research identifying that there were 89 separate bills and 49 resolutions of the B.C. Legislature passed from 1872 to 1928 and, in addition, a raft of other motions and efforts by private members to perpetuate this vision and notion that B.C. was a white man’s province and that if you weren’t white, you weren’t allowed.
While the Chinese head tax and Chinese Exclusion Act were both federal measures and have received most of the attention in terms of the formal regrets offered by Canada, it’s also marked that the sheer volume of legislative measures authored in B.C. is unprecedented among provinces. We have the very dubious distinction, it could be argued, of having the most racist history in our country.
There are also legislative measures and actions that target not only the Chinese community but also the South Asian and Japanese communities. They are included as well.
I want to make some remarks in terms of B.C.’s racist past. There’s very good work done by Henry Yu, a B.C. historian and academic, that B.C.’s racist past spans many, many years and many races. Our province’s history of race-based policies can also be described as apartheid and really characterized in a white supremacist society.
The history of colonization, I think, is important in terms of recognizing what the origin of these bills was that were passed in these chambers where we sit today and also moving forward in terms of genuine reconciliation. Our history of colonization of Canada and British Columbia is the story of the disenfranchisement and the dislocation of the indigenous people, who were the original people of Canada, who were first here. And we are still dealing with these legacies.
When we talk about kind of characterizing…. There are certain points in time over the history that stand out that are recognized with respect to very explicit racist scars in British Columbia. There were mentions of the Komagata
[ Page 14296 ]
Maru, of the exclusionary Chinese head tax and Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese Canadians.
There’s also a history of racism against the black community, the Canadian-African community, the razing of Hogan’s Alley to make way for the Georgia Viaduct in Vancouver and, of course, the treatment of our indigenous people in Canada. That really set the stage in terms of distinguishing Canada as having a very shameful, racist history, in terms of treating not only the original peoples here but also setting the stage with respect to the racist treatment of racialized communities, immigrant communities, racialized communities of colour who are not white.
In terms of the treatment of our indigenous people, we are familiar with the reservation system, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop. I have friends who were caught up in that, and that is really, you know, current-day reality.
When we look at the landmark case that was brought forward by Cindy Blackstock in terms of finding the Canadian government at fault for discriminating against indigenous children on reserves — that they are underfunded compared to Canadian children from other communities — that landmark decision is important. And the point that I think Canadians are still coming to terms with is the impact of our colonial history and the impact in British Columbia — certainly, the impact on the First Nations communities and all communities of colour.
The one comment that I just wanted to mention briefly, before I go on, is to really sum it up. I think that as Canada and British Columbia come to terms with our racist history and the destruction and the damage that that has wrought and that we continue to live with today, it is summed up, I think, in the reality of children from indigenous communities who were apprehended forcefully and brought into residential schools. The survival rate was 50 percent, which means that 50 percent of children going into residential schools died.
The Canadian government and the B.C. government are also…. Collectively, we share that responsibility. That is a very painful reality but, I think, also very important in terms of us reconciling when we move forward.
I wanted to set that as the context with respect to making these remarks to recognize the importance of repealing the vestiges of these explicit exclusionary and discriminatory laws targeted against the Chinese community and that also impacted other communities — the South Asian and, particularly, the Japanese communities.
B.C. has a deeply racist and exclusionary history. It spans many years and races. I want to just reference a quote by Alden Habacon, who is a diversity expert and speaker and works at UBC. His quote is that living with the result of this history, this racist history, means that with this history having been erased from our memory, ignorance of history is one of the most important powerful colonial tools. It is important, therefore, to understand this history, to really share it broadly and to move forward with that understanding.
So, certainly, I want to make some remarks with respect to…. You know, there were some comments around…. People came to British Columbia and settled. Settlers from the European colonization came to British Columbia and Canada and, you know, groups kind of mixed together. Generally, that is true — you know, they kind of interacted with indigenous people — but it was also driven by a very damaging colonial agenda. And what we are left with today, moving forward, having recognized and wanting to address those outstanding explicit racist laws…. We still are seeing the legacy of racism here in our midst. And while we remove these racist laws, we still have the reality of racism in our midst.
There was a recent report by Vancity that 82 percent of British Columbians surveyed who identified as a visible minority said they experienced discrimination or racism. We’ve heard remarks from my colleague from Surrey-Newton — recent history, within our lifetimes, experiencing explicit racism.
I was born in Langley and raised in northern Manitoba. My mom is originally from the Philippines. My dad has been in Canada for many generations. His family originates from Ireland.
Growing up in northern Manitoba, I was always asked…. I was five years old. I was a little girl. And I could never understand why people would ask me: “Mable, where are you from? Where do you come from?” And I’d say: “Well, I was born in Langley. I grew up in The Pas, Manitoba, in northern Manitoba.” You know, that’s what I would say, but they were just prompting because, of course, I had brown skin, so I figured it out pretty quick. “Oh, right.” I’d reference that my mom is from the Philippines. But the message was: “Oh, you’re not quite Canadian.” So that’s a very…. You know, it’s a subtle thing.
We grew up with my mother. She was an immigrant, a nurse in the ’60s — just coming home with, you know, stories of racism in being treated by white nurses and doctors, of Filipino nurses being given the worst work and heavy workloads and my mom really standing up against that and not accepting that. So that was just my personal experience around that.
Today we see it around us in our province, the impact of racism. It’s here, and it remains an important priority for us to acknowledge our history, to remove those racist bills that still exist, but to move forward with a view of understanding, with a racial lens on public policy and our Legislature, a racialized, gender lens, and also looking at class in terms of how people in British Columbia have access to opportunity and to address that inequality.
So we have the report that Vancity — the majority of people of colour, racialized folks, identified as, you know, either not of white skin or of colour, that they experienced racism in one way or another.
We know that racialized people are overrepresented in the ranks of poverty — three times the rate. And it’s being characterized that we have a global situation, the rise of very concerning anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric with the election down south of our neighbours and also around the world, really. I think it’s a shock. British Columbians would be shocked to learn that, actually, as a province, we have that history of being the worst racists in our country. I don’t think that British Columbians know that.
I think, also, Canadians think…. We feel a little bit buffered. That’s the United States, right? That’s going on in Europe. But if you are very brutally honest, you could argue that Canada has a worse race problem than the United States, of course, with their history of slavery. If you look at the social indicators, really, most indicators around the life experiences of our indigenous people fall below those indicators in the United States with African Americans and their history of slavery.
Certainly, there’s much that remains to be done. We know that it’s important not only in words, not only in statistics, but with the recent tragedy in Quebec, where five Muslims praying in their mosque were killed. As well, we have two bomb threats against the Jewish community in Vancouver as recently as Sunday. This sentiment of hate and intolerance and discrimination is certainly alive and well in our society, and there’s an importance for us to come together and speak out against it.
This bill, Bill 3, to recognize that history and to correct that, is an important step forward. But it has to go hand in hand with recognizing what the impacts are today, what the reality is today and what our responsibility as legislators is today.
When we look at…. Another snapshot. That was a Vancity survey. What are the sentiments? What are people’s experiences around racism? Eighty-two percent experience racism.
I want to reference, also, to make my point, a July 2011 report. It’s the DiverseCity Counts, a snapshot of diversity and leadership in Metro Vancouver. This also paints a picture in terms of what the reality is around institutionalized racism today and how that persists.
It’s a report that looked at Metro Vancouver — Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey and Coquitlam, the municipalities that have 70 percent of Metro Vancouver’s population. The visible minority population accounted for over half, 51 percent of the total population. They looked at what the representation was of senior leadership positions right across the board in these municipalities.
If our communities are 51 percent racialized folks, people of colour, at the highest leadership you would expect that to be reflected. You would expect that there would be 50 percent leadership — in elected officials, public sector executives, the corporate sector, the volunteer sector, education and government agencies. But the average was 12 percent.
You have 50 percent of that demographic in Metro Vancouver, and we don’t see that reflected at those highest levels of leadership. I call that a success gap, and, really, institutionalized racism is contributing towards that.
When we look today, currently, at what the reality is for racialized people, there is a different experience with respect to…. We see that race affects access to housing, jobs, health and citizenship as well as access to justice. That remains a challenge for us today.
When we analyze why it was that the legislators brought in this exclusionary, discriminatory legislation, well, the bulk of the workers were coming in from China to build our railway, to build the Canadian railway across our country. They needed those workers because Canadians didn’t want to do that work.
The workers from China were paid less. They had to pay for their board and lodging, when the white workers didn’t have to. They didn’t have access to medical services, and they were given the most dangerous and difficult work. They were brought in and discriminated against for cheap labour, and their access to citizenship was restricted.
This is what we are talking about today to correct that — the treatment of these hard-working workers and immigrants from China, who came in to build our country. The importance today is that while we recognize those mistakes from the past, we also must learn those lessons and not perpetuate them. We have systems in place now that continue the exact same exclusionary, discriminatory programs to bring cheap racialized labour into our country and restrict their access to permanent citizenship. That is currently the temporary foreign worker program. It’s a national program, but it’s implemented here in British Columbia.
While we recognize our history, it’s important to also reconcile that with our present and to take a strong position. You can mark my words, Mr. Speaker. I’m standing in the House to say that the temporary foreign worker program is following in the footsteps of the discriminatory practices of how Chinese workers were treated and discriminated against over a century ago. We are seeing this now: racialized workers being denied access to safe work and having their rights upheld because they are, basically, chained to their employers and deported if they complain. We are seeing this now in our province. So that is one of the points that I would like to raise for all of us here in the Legislature in terms of going forward.
Going forward, what’s our future? I wholeheartedly support Bill 3. Moving forward, we have to recognize the value and the importance of our diversity — multiculturalism, our intercultural communities. That is the future of our province. We have to ensure that measures are put in place to address the systemic exploitation and discrimination that exist now in our society against racialized people, against indigenous people and against immigrant communities.
[ Page 14298 ]
To conclude, we’ve heard from previous Premiers, Sir Richard McBride, that B.C. shall be a white man’s province and from our previous Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald that “it is better to have Chinese labour than no labour at all…. At any moment when the Legislature of Canada chooses, it can shut down the gate and say no more immigrants shall come here from China…and those in the country at the time will rapidly disappear…and therefore, there is no fear of permanent degradation…by a mongrel race.”
I stand in support of Bill 3, against that sentiment. I’m also recognizing that we have more work to be done and that there is continuing inequality and injustice in our midst, in our communities right across our province, that impacts our indigenous and racialized communities. We have to join together, as well, to stand up against the hate, against discrimination and in support of equal opportunity for all British Columbians.
I’m very honoured to stand and support Bill 3.
D. Eby: I rise to speak to support the bill.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ding Guo, who’s a prominent columnist in the Chinese community here in British Columbia. Mr. Guo and I have had a number of conversations about the representations of Chinese Canadians, both in law and in elected office in our provincial and federal legislatures, and he’s an expert in the area.
He received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Jack Webster Award for journalism. He’s a producer of Mandarin News with Omni. His columns are regularly on lahoo.ca, which is RiseMedia’s popular social media site.
Importantly to the conversation about this bill, Xiānshēng Guo is co-author, with David Chuenyan Lai, of Great Fortune Dream, the story of Chinese settlers in British Columbia from as early as 1858 to, more recently, in 1966. Now, this book is wonderfully written, and I’d recommend it to all members in the Legislature for summer reading. I’d recommend it if I wasn’t already overdue in returning it to the library. The publisher of this book was one of the publishers featured in B.C. Book Week here at the Legislature, and Xiānshēng Guo’s book was prominently featured among their collection.
Now, the relevance of that book to this bill is that it provides a historical context for the laws that we see that are being struck by this bill. The book starts with the discovery of gold in the Fraser River in 1858 and a major wave of Chinese immigration, brought in as cheap labour to assist with the development of gold mining. Most of the Chinese immigrants in this period came from the Pearl River Delta. While they were at first welcome in British Columbia, when the gold ran out, so did the patience of the white settlers for the labourers that had come from China. From the publicity materials for the book, this is probably the best description of what happened:
“Anti-Chinese organizations formed and pressed politicians to exclude Chinese from government work and restrict Chinese immigration. After British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871, politicians would not receive support from white settlers unless they condemned Chinese migrants as ‘the grasshoppers’ of B.C., a plague that would eventually devour the province. For the century that followed, segregation and discrimination against the Chinese would be a hallmark of white citizens of Canada.”
This political culture and atmosphere led to the bills in the late 1890s that, for example, public works construction couldn’t have Chinese or Japanese labourers working on those sites. Similar laws, related to other companies with similar caveats and restrictions around Chinese and Japanese workers, are part of this bill that’s in front of us today.
These laws appear to be, hopefully, some of the last remnants of active legislation on the books in B.C. that are actively, explicitly discriminatory. However, many purchasers of homes in Vancouver and other parts of the Lower Mainland will still see, on property titles, discriminatory covenants attempting to restrict the sale of homes that they have purchased from being purchased by Chinese Canadians or South Asian Canadians. So the legacy of the racist past remains.
What’s missing in the discussion, sometimes, is the courageous work of Chinese Canadians who are catalogued in Xiānshēng Guo’s book. They got together, and they formed associations — whether it was businesses or whether it was clans — to work and advocate for their rights in our province. They lobbied politicians, they advocated, and they were very effective in pushing back the growing racist tide. I hesitate to think about where we would be if they hadn’t done this. Their stories are very heroic.
We need to be very careful, as legislators, not to repeat the brutal history of those who came before us and who voted for these racist provisions that targeted people of South Asian, Chinese and Japanese descent. For example, it’s quite sobering to realize that Won Alexander Cumyow was the first Canadian of Chinese descent born in Canada, and he was 88 years old before he got to vote. I thank the member for Surrey-Newton for bringing that to my attention.
More recently, on the real estate file, concerns about international money in our housing market can really encourage people who are racist to attempt to piggyback anti-immigrant sentiment for proposals seeking a broader audience on concerns about housing affordability. We can all do better, and we must always do better. The key is to speak out about racism when we hear it or see it and to make casual racism as uncomfortable as it is unacceptable.
I’m glad that we’re passing this law. I’m glad that, on at least this one thing, there is unity on both sides of the House.
From September 7 to 9 in 1907, racist sentiment in Vancouver reached a boil when the anti-Asiatic riots,
[ Page 14299 ]
also known as the anti-Oriental riots, led angry mobs of white settlers to damage businesses owned by Japanese and Chinese Canadians. Similar riots took place in Bellingham in Washington state.
Passing today’s bill is a small act to prevent similar racism from growing in our communities, but if nobody knows about it, why we’re doing it, or what the history is, we’re doomed to repeat it. That’s why books like that by Xiānshēng Guo are so important and why I encourage every member of this House to spend some time reading it this summer — or another book similar to it — about our history. There are many wonderful examples.
If we want to make a better British Columbia, a more accepting British Columbia, for all the diverse communities we serve and for our children, today’s act is one small step in that direction. But it is far from our only step. We need strong enforcement of anti-racism and anti-discrimination laws for a human rights commission. We need to stand up and speak out about racist incidents in our community. We need to learn more about the diverse communities that we serve. We need to consider how we communicate our activities to involve everyone, to meet different cultural groups where they are, not where we expect them to be.
There is much we can do, and I am grateful that this House is standing together to provide a consistent message of welcome to every British Columbian.
R. Fleming: I appreciate my opportunity to rise in this debate. We are, in large part, talking about addressing the record of lawmakers who occupied these very same seats that we have. Over many, many decades, the legislative framework for employment law, property law, housing, entrance to public schools or universities — laws covering almost every aspect of citizens’ daily lives — was not only tinged with racism but had the intent of keeping British Columbia divided and of upholding discrimination that, today, would not only be unlawful but, in fact, has been struck down by the various interpretations of our constitutional rights and freedoms.
I think that’s why today represents a very important debate. It’s an opportunity to go over the tremendous progress we have made as a province, but it’s also an opportunity, not to gloss over but to bring into light some very, very dark periods in the history of this province.
I commend members on both sides of the House who have brought up their own personal examples of how this may have touched their families or their constituents’ lives, how it makes them feel in terms of being a representative today in a modern 21st-century Legislature like we have, thinking back to the past and trying to contextualize events that today we find completely abhorrent and repugnant.
I think this has been a very good debate and discussion, but particularly, its importance is about, obviously, those communities that were the target of discrimination in the province of British Columbia, whose lives were forever altered by opportunities being closed off to them, by being denied equality, dignity and respect under law, by being forbidden to have relationships with their neighbours and friends and to be able to take their rightful and equal place along other communities in B.C.
I can only add my own experiences. I think, having heard from many members on both sides of the House, that we think about racism in terms of probably what we learned as a child, when we first learned that there were differences between people. Young children have no idea that there are. We’ve all seen that in our lives and on the school ground. That’s the way it should be.
But there does come a point where we do absorb the fact that people do have differences. They may have different places where they worship. They have different skin colours, they have different features, and they have different genders — all of those things. We all, in those formative years, get explanations from our parents and others who have influence over us, but the primary influence is really about the attitudes of society.
It’s wonderful to look back on how far we’ve come as a society. But in understanding history, we must appreciate that most of that was not…. Just as lawmakers made bad decisions and passed discriminatory laws, discrimination and racism can’t be legislated away either. It is done by a long arc in a shift of culture, but it’s done by very episodic, precise moments where there are struggles that precede the changes in laws, that change the mind of Parliament or mainstream opinion and force an issue.
It wasn’t that long ago, for example, to illustrate this point, that we came to terms with the formal recognition of equality in marriage, adoption and a number of other areas for LGBT Canadians — that we banished discrimination based on sexual orientation.
My experience growing up, which brought the issue to point and, I suppose, was part of becoming politicized, was growing up in the North Shore of Vancouver in the 1980s. It could not escape notice by myself and my friends at school that we lived in a community…. North Vancouver, West Vancouver — wonderful areas of the Lower Mainland. But in the 1980s, there was a menacing presence that had access to every resident of those two cities’ front doorsteps twice a week.
I’m talking about a vile, anti-Semitic and racist column that was published by the North Shore News, written by a now deceased person named Doug Collins. Some of you will remember the horrendous opinions held by this man, his contemptible views. This was somebody who was an ardent defender of Holocaust deniers in Canada and was himself one. I can remember a column that he wrote where he attacked Steven Spielberg and his Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List as part of some kind of Hollywood conspiracy.
[ Page 14300 ]
I raise this because this is what confronted people in the 1980s. We’re not talking about the distant rocks of time. We are talking about a hurtful column, a legacy that was allowed full access, against people’s will, on their front doorsteps, by a mainstream publisher in a community where there was the most overt discrimination against, particularly, Chinese Canadians from even owning real estate in certain parts of those two cities.
I don’t mention this just to illustrate that there are — and currently today there are — fringe defenders of vile and offensive and genocidal ideas like Nazism and fascism. It’s disturbing that some of those fringe voices in the United States seem to have taken some comfort to come out of the woodwork because they see something in the current president of the United States that emboldens them to come into the public view and expound upon those views. I raise this example because — I don’t think I’m that old — the 1980s wasn’t that long ago.
It wasn’t that long ago, for example, that we had a debate that, today, seems quite simple but was made complicated at the time. The idea was around Canada having hate laws. There were some who took the view that it was an incursion on freedom of speech to have laws that would proscribe the spreading of false views, utterly made-up views, discriminatory on the basis of religion, ethnicity or race — views that were not only hurtful but were deemed to be dangerous because they could incite and, we can think of many examples, did incite violence and terror against a particular community in Canada.
That was only 30 years ago that we were having a discussion about how to modernize laws, not only to get rid of formerly overtly racist statutes but to look at problems in our contemporary society where racism was allowed to flourish and could not properly be dealt with by prosecutors and others when it was injuring Canadians.
I want to, as the Education critic for the opposition, just deal with one example. There are so many, and members have eloquently addressed a number of them in their own communities that they represent. An example of discrimination in the education system here in Victoria is the story of the Chinese Public School on Fisgard Street, not too far from this Legislature.
Today, of course, it’s a thriving institution that is embraced by all in the community and that teaches a number of skills and ensures that the influence of Chinese culture that was once so derided and was once sought to be actually physically marginalized in our community today occupies a very central part of our identity and, indeed, of the downtown of our city.
Suffice it to say this was not always the case. We have heard about anti-Chinese discrimination in employment and housing and property ownership. It existed in university admission, where it was formally barred, and it existed in the public schooling system of our province.
The Chinese Public School, I think, is one example of how it played out in my city, but certainly across the landscape of British Columbia, at the beginning of the 20th century, beginning actually at the end of the late 19th century.
It came to a head, actually, in about 1900 or 1901, when the school district in Victoria opened what was then a new school, Rock Bay Elementary. It was actually the closest school to Chinatown.
In 1901, only 15 of about 108 school-aged Chinese children in Victoria attended public schools in the city of Victoria, and most of them were at Rock Bay Elementary. Now, the school district endured a number of complaints from white parents and did not want…. They petitioned elected representatives to forbid their children, white children, studying in the same classes with Chinese children.
The superintendent conducted an investigation and questioned, actually, teachers about the influence these 15 Chinese students were having. The answer that came back from the teachers was that the Chinese children were generally hard-working and well-behaved. The arguments of the white parents were indeed challenged, but because only white parents had the franchise and influence, in terms of elections, it was their voices that were ultimately to prevail.
The school board chairman, George Jay — who, I would note, has an elementary school named after him — stated in late August 1907 that Chinese children had to pass an English examination before being allowed to attend public schools. This rule, it’s important to note, only applied to Chinese students. It did not apply to Dutch- or German- or French-speaking children who were new Canadians. It was deliberately targeted against the Chinese community in Victoria.
What could these communities do? They had to, in fact, go to the courts, which were part of the system of law that itself was discriminatory, to try and get some relief, to try and get justice for their children. The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and a number of service clubs raised money from right across Canada, on what they deemed to be a precedent-setting case, to hire a well-known lawyer of the day, Fred Peters, to challenge this school board regulation.
Mr. Peters argued before the court that since all children were required to attend school in B.C., the new rule was illegal. As reasonable as that argument is, the pressures of the day came to bear and prevailed, and the CCBA lost its case. There was one concession. The school board did eventually allow children of Chinese families who were born in Canada to attend public schools.
That’s the early 1900s. I think we need to challenge this idea that the history of racism and discrimination is a straight line, where we started at the worst point and successfully chipped away at the foundation. No, it is not a straight line. We made improvements, and then we slipped backwards. I think the course of history shows
[ Page 14301 ]
that even now, in this part of the 21st century, as we look at the politics in Europe and the politics in the United States, this is an important lesson to make.
Things got worse in the 1920s. The issue of separate, segregated schooling came up again. This time the school district realized that it had to be a little bit more nuanced and not directly refer to race. The school board actually made unsupported arguments that Chinese students represented a hygiene problem in the school, that they delayed the start of classes and, therefore, were a disruption to the school system.
Mr. George Jay, who I referenced earlier as a champion of segregation, as he was, got elected back into his position as chairman. He decided, in that year, in September 1922, that 200, by now, Chinese elementary students that were then integrated into the public school system should be moved to a segregated building on Kings Road and in Rock Bay. So literally — and if you can think back to how humiliating and disgraceful this must have been — in September 1922, principals lined up Chinese students from George Jay School and the Boys Central School and marched them to a segregated school at Kings Road.
I think it’s important in these debates to also highlight that history has real heroes who stood up against the force of the law and the force of prevailing public opinion. The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association indeed was one of those organizations that did not take racism and discrimination targeted against their own members and their own community lying down.
A heroic example arises in response to what happened to these children, this humiliation. They all worked together to create what was called the Anti-Segregation Association, a mass movement in Victoria that went well beyond the Chinese community and included all of its allies. What they did to respond to the school district was they organized a strike. They had all of these Chinese students walk out of the schools and created a political firestorm and crisis for the school district to deal with.
The strike went on for an entire year. The Chinese community took on the educational needs of their children on an emergency basis for that year. After a year of refusing to go along with racism and injustice that targeted their kids, they prevailed. I think that’s a historic and courageous example of how communities actually fought back.
I can think of another one that inspired me long ago. It was when I was hired by the International Woodworkers of America. I worked in Duncan for a period of time. That was a union that had a long history. It no longer exists. It has been absorbed and amalgamated with the United Steelworkers. When I was responsible for writing some pamphlets about the union’s history — because I think we were celebrating the 75th anniversary of that union at the time — it was my pleasure to discover that a union that had been seen primarily as being white, a union that had a….
The trade union movement of British Columbia has a fantastic and heroic history of fighting racism and discrimination, but it also has — prior to the First World War, in particular — a history of the opposite, of participating in discrimination. It was my great pleasure and surprise to read about a chapter where the IWA organized a broad movement to fight for the enfranchisement of Sikh Canadians.
We had gone through the Komagata Maru some 30 years earlier. We had lived through a British Commonwealth country like ours refusing to acknowledge the citizenship rights of British citizens from Asian countries, from the British protectorate in India. This community — and I’m speaking of primarily the Punjabi Sikh community — had served this country loyally in the First and Second World Wars. They came back in 1945 still without the right to vote. They went back to the mills, and they went back to the cutblocks in our forests. They went back to the rough work that was available to an immigrant community like that, having made sacrifices on the battlefield, without the right to vote.
Well, the union fought back and organized for them. In 1947, they organized a march. And you can well imagine what the Malahat highway looked like in 1947 — not a very sophisticated roadway. They marched over the Malahat, through the Goldstream, all the way down to the parliament of British Columbia and demanded, in 1947, that Indo-Canadians had the same right to vote as every other citizen.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
So it was that decades followed, when, finally, the franchise was extended to all communities that had been discriminated against prior to that, until we finally extended the franchise to every Canadian, including First Nations Canadians, in the 1960s.
I raise this point because history has shown that Canada and British Columbia are dynamic places. I think the Legislature today is proving that we can boldly face the historic wrongs that were committed in the name of the province of B.C., that were legally bound at one time, and where we can commend ordinary British Columbian men and women from oppressed communities — from all communities — who worked together to turn the tide of history and sweep away the ugliness of racism and discrimination.
It is my pleasure to have taken my place in debate to speak a little bit this afternoon on the opportunity you’ve accorded me on Bill 3.
M. Mark: I am indeed honoured to be able to speak to Bill 3, the Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act. I’ve just been so fascinated by all of the comments made by members from both sides of this House
[ Page 14302 ]
speaking about discriminatory laws that were created in this province — created in these chambers — and now are going to be shelved in the name of human rights and justice.
I have a lot of thoughts. As you are aware, I am an indigenous woman. My grandparents are Nisga’a and Gitxsan, Cree and Ojibway, French and Scottish. There’s been lots of dialogue around the importance of multiculturalism in this country and where the First Nations have stood in this country. There has been mention of colonization in these chambers. There has been lots of talk about segregation.
I just want to start my remarks by lifting up my hands to the member opposite for bringing forward this bill and shelving the discriminatory laws. I’d also like to acknowledge the work of my colleagues in Vancouver-Kensington and Surrey-Whalley and the former member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, who did some tremendous advocacy, starting in 2014, to shelve these discriminatory laws that have been in effect until now — once this bill is passed.
I just wanted to honour their work and to really bring forward the fact that we have had a history in this country of discrimination and oppressive laws that have had huge impacts on people’s lives and well-being. The government of Canada and the government of British Columbia have gone to great lengths to keep their country white. The government has gone to great lengths to segregate people of colour and has gone to great lengths, as we know, to oppress those that are different.
I was mentioning that I am indigenous. I was born under the Indian Act, which is the oldest piece of legislation in this country. It is the only race-based piece of legislation in this country. The Indian Act defines the powers divided between the federal government and the provincial government. So I know full well the impacts of legislation on my human rights. And we know today that the First Nations in this country are not thriving. It is because of legislation that keeps their circumstances where they are today.
There’s been lots of talk about residential schools and children being removed from their families, which is no different than what the Chinese Canadians experienced when they were forcibly removed from their families. They built this country, just like the First Nations.
In many ways, the Chinese and First Nations have been paddling together since contact. I really love that visual — to think about the Chinese and the First Nations paddling together. Really, what they did was they stood in solidarity, because they were being oppressed together. They were being segregated together.
Looking in the history books on this issue, the Chinese Canadians were subjected to hate crimes, much like the First Nations. They were forced to sit up in the balconies of the movie theatres, much like the First Nations. Probably in the back of the bus, like our friends in the south.
My point is not to go down just the path of history, but to acknowledge that members in these chambers made these laws. These laws were oppressive and discriminatory. Now we are saying, “They are over. Those days are behind us,” which I think is fantastic — to acknowledge that they are behind us.
Last year, we had a report that spoke to truth and reconciliation, and 94 calls to action. So first we have to acknowledge the truth, and then we can get to the reconciliation.
There were a number of Chinese leaders that came into these chambers last week to witness the apology. I think it’s fantastic for the government to apologize, but of course, we have to acknowledge the truth. Their safety was compromised building the railroads. The subjective tax — the discriminatory tax — that they were forced to pay. The hardship they faced for their families. There were many years — there were decades — that the Chinese Canadians experienced this discrimination.
I lift my hands to the government for acknowledging the truth of what happened to visible minorities in this country and that we’re going to, hopefully, by repealing these laws, get to reconciliation.
I would like to turn my remarks to something that I said earlier about the great lengths that the government has gone to, to keep this country white. Doing some history for this bill…. I just want to read an excerpt from the Times on July 4, 1913, to the editor:
“I have been an interested reader of the letters in your paper in reference to the Oriental menace. I would like to ask you if it is not against immigration laws of Canada for any person to pay an immigrant fare into this country. And what is the penalty, if any? And are the Chinamen, according to law, supposed to pay their own head tax? It is pretty well known who pays both their head tax and passage money and also secures the Chinese peon a job when they land in the white province of British Columbia.”
We don’t have those remarks in our public media, but we certainly have those remarks shared in our social media. We still give people social licence to talk with discrimination, to lead with discrimination. So I appreciate that we are speaking truth and that we are going to, hopefully, get to reconciliation by moving forward with this bill.
There were a lot of remarks shared in these chambers that make me think about my grandparents, who didn’t have the right to vote in the province until 1949. I’m thinking about the Chinese and South Asian community, which wasn’t allowed to vote until 1947. Indigenous people, aboriginal people, weren’t allowed to vote federally in this country until 1960. Again, the government has gone to great lengths to suppress and oppress and seclude and exclude visible minorities.
I often wonder: what was the threat? Why were First Nations so threatening? Why were indigenous people so threatening? Why were the Chinese so threatening? Why were Japanese people so threatening, South Asians so threatening?
[ Page 14303 ]
I really hope, as we move forward with this bill, that we get to the issue of fear. I think it’s fear that drives the hatred. I think it’s fear that drives the division in our communities and our cultures. There was lots of talk about multiculturalism and how everything is so great in this country and this province, as we’re celebrating our 150th anniversary in this country. But quite frankly, I think it depends on who you are.
As an indigenous person…. Many people that are indigenous are condemned. We’re told that we don’t pay any taxes. We’re made fun of. There are so many stereotypes — that we’re a whole bunch of drunks that don’t have any jobs and all collect welfare. Those are the attitudes that are held today, and it goes back to colonization. It goes back to this history that we have in this country of trying to bring forward…. You know, civilize the Indian. Christianize the Indian.
My friend here, the member from Hastings, talked about how residential school was about killing the Indian in the child. Right now we have more children in foster care than at the height of residential school.
I am a person who wants to see the glass half-full. I went to school really believing in my heart, from a young age, that we are all equal. It was only through society that I learned that I was different. It was only through going to school and functioning in our society that I learned a thing or two about racism.
I’ll tell you how my aunts and uncle experienced racism. They were told: “Why are you so black? Why are you so dark?” My aunt actually had to try to bleach herself because she wanted to be white. That is the impact of racism on people in this country.
Again, I honour the government for speaking truth to power. I think it’s important that we speak to truth and get to the reconciliation, and I’m optimistic that we are going to get to reconciliation.
Jenny Kwan and Ida Chong were the first Chinese members that served in these chambers, back in 1996. It took a long time, I might add, but we are making progress.
I became the first indigenous woman to serve in these chambers. To me, that is a testament, considering what my grandparents went through. The fact that they weren’t allowed to vote. The fact that indigenous people were discriminated against and displaced and put on reserves and given the worst conditions that you can think of.
Things haven’t gotten that great that we should pride ourselves in thinking that everything has improved in our backyards. We are one day away from the activity that’s happening in the south. People are coming out in high numbers. I hate to say it. I hate to even mention the words KKK, but we should mention people that are out there that are driven with hatred. When we think about these laws, we have to remember that it’s fear that drives hatred. That hatred drives a division, and that hatred leads to, of course, discrimination.
Is the glass half-full? I would hope to think so. It’s 2017. This apology was made. I’m sure it meant a lot to the Chinese leaders that came here last week to bear witness, to see that there is something moving forward from the consultations that started in 2014 — that it’s more than lip service and that we are going to see, hopefully, reconciliation in action within our curriculum.
I would hope, when we think about reconciliation, that we don’t forget the circumstances of indigenous people in this country. I know that we’re making some headway on getting some improvements into our curriculum for children in our elementary and high schools, but let’s paddle together. Let’s make that reconciliation together. Let’s not make it about the Chinese or the First Nations or the South Asians or the Japanese. Let’s make it about reconciliation in action.
My dream. I grew up with all sorts of…. I went to school with kids from all over the United Nations. I see in colour; I dream in colour. I’m optimistic that things can get better, but we have to fight. I’m thinking about the peoples’ lives that were lost because they were Chinese, because they were native, because they were black, because they were South Asian.
Let’s not forget that truth as we move forward. Let’s not deny our future generation an opportunity where we can have peace, where our kids can learn to paddle together. We have to advocate for them to paddle together. We have to advocate to make sure that our human rights are going to be upheld in our backyard and that we are going to take a stand against discrimination.
As I said earlier, the government has gone to great lengths to discriminate. The government in B.C. has gone to great lengths to keep its backyard white. It is my hope that we are going to go to great lengths to make sure that we have a province that thrives with our multiculturalism and that we uphold our leaders.
When I think of the Chinese leaders from the Chinese Benevolent Association, who really were almost an arm of government…. They’ve been around since 1896 advocating for the Chinese community. Right now we still need those advocates to advocate for Chinatown, which is a thriving part of Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, for which I’m the proud member.
We need to make sure that we’re paddling forward and that we’re advocating for that diversity. Again, I’m happy to be standing here to speak to this bill, to speak for the future generation and, really, to ask that all of us think about paddling together with that sense of diversity in our hearts.
A. Dix: It’s with great happiness, in fact, that I rise to speak to this debate. What we’re doing today is something of historical significance that I think will both be remembered and put in context our own history as a province.
This piece of legislation, Bill 3, which is part of a suite of measures that has been developed over the last few
[ Page 14304 ]
years, recognizes historic injustice in our province — in this case, in particular, as expressed to the Chinese-Canadian community.
As the minister will know and as members of the House will know, almost all of the legislation and all of the acts that we’re talking about were also used in a discriminatory way against the Japanese-Canadian community and the South Asian community.
My colleague the member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant just spoke eloquently about the impact on First Nations and on First Nations communities of similar laws over, really, a very significant part of the first century of British Columbia’s existence.
It’s always important to think of history in context, and I think that’s important in this case. But some of the people that we judge most highly in history…. Sir Wilfrid Laurier is often recognized as a great Canadian Prime Minister. We think of his quote, though, which reflects, in a sense, one strand of the racism of Canadian and British Columbian policy in the period leading up from Confederation through its first 70 years. Sir Wilfrid Laurier said: “The people of Canada” — and this was expressed in policy — “want to have a white country.”
Then Sir Richard McBride, who in some ways…. He was a Premier of British Columbia. We know that from New Westminster to Vancouver to other communities, Richard McBride’s name is on the front of schools today, and so on. Nonetheless, as Premier of British Columbia, he expressed — through dozens of laws and dozens of administrative actions of government, if not hundreds — very clearly: “British Columbia shall be a white man’s province.”
Indeed, these two steps weren’t examples of political excess. These were not, if you will, the statements of the David Dukes of the day, people perceived to be on the political margins. They were truly at the centre of Canadian and British Columbian politics and policy. They were not in excess at all.
In fact, this province gave life to a version of what we call Jim Crow laws that was so extensive in the hundreds of laws passed over the dozens and dozens of years — indeed, decades — and not really reversed for 100 years after British Columbia joined Confederation. They reflect what we were as a province — many great things, of course, but also a place of profound divisions. Of the centrepiece….
You will not find another Canadian province where you have this many discriminatory provisions. The minister found 204 — I’m going to talk about that process in a second — over time that had been identified in this process, 19 of which we’re dealing with in this bill as being still active, in a sense — 204.
You’ll see almost none of those provisions in any other province of Canada. If anything, one thinks of the sort of vision of Alabama at a certain point in the 1960s, with the governor on the schoolhouse steps blocking people from attending university in that state.
These matters are fixed in our memories. Anyone who follows American culture, and that is most of us in Canada; who watches American movies, and that is most of us in Canada; and who understands the impact of that American debate still on American society has to recognize that here in British Columbia, while it has not been in as many movies and is not seen in as many historical texts, we had our own story, our own vision.
If you will, hon. Speaker, I think of Laurier and McBride as two significant, even great, Canadian and British Columbian historical figures who, in their views, reflected the two strands of this.
The strand that was, on the one hand, mostly represented at the federal level was importing labour — without rights, treated horribly, dying in the thousands in the workplace building the national railway. That’s the one strand: “We must have access to cheap labour.” That was the federal strand and led the federal government to disallow many British Columbia bills.
Then we have the other strand, which is British Columbia, which passed law after law after law that said in detail: “Chinese Canadians, in this case, don’t have the right to vote. Chinese Canadians don’t have rights under the law. Chinese Canadians don’t have the right to work in workplaces.” The detail of these bills, the pettiness of the provisions in these bills, speaks to that.
We had two competing ideas, both racist in fact, both treating people as not just second-class citizens but third- and fourth- and fifth-class citizens, operating at the same time and, to some extent, in conflict with one another — but profoundly real.
I think that is at the core of why this is important. It is important, it seems to me, to understand how far we’ve come. But it is critical to see where we’ve been, why our province developed in the way it did, to understand and to own our history, not just to ignore it — which seems to be, in some ways, in vogue today.
This particular piece of legislation, of course, and this particular process came out of what one might describe as some incredibly partisan manoeuvres by the current government around these questions — partisan manoeuvres which were found and, I think, generally accepted to have been profoundly in error. So we came through a process. Some people referred to it and may have discussed, in the bill, what this is about, which in that case was quick wins.
We have to understand why we, as a province and as people, condemn that so roundly. A lot of what we see here in this legislation and a lot of the legislation that was passed, even though the legislators who sat in this very chamber knew those laws would be disallowed by the federal government, was a form of legislative riot effectively trying to use the symbols of hatred and racism for political gain.
[ Page 14305 ]
It’s something that was repeatedly used in election campaigns, repeatedly used right up to the 1930s and beyond by political parties — in this province, principally Liberal and Conservative political parties of the time at both the federal and provincial level. But no one was is exempted. No one has entirely clean hands in this effort.
One of the reasons, after the last election, the official opposition took a great interest in this issue, this question of law…. One of the reasons we went out, researched the question and did our own analysis of what had happened in British Columbia was to return this debate not to a debate about political expediency — not to view this debate about our history, about racism, about fundamental human rights, as transactional politics — but to treat it seriously, as an opportunity for education, an opportunity to understand where we’ve come from.
We worked with the Legislative Library, and we found, about 150 laws. There are more provisions found since then, but we found 150 laws, seven reports, two resolutions from the Committee of Supply authorizing expenditures which were, on the face of them, racist. The intent of these laws, as I’ve said, was to fill the vision of a white man’s province.
What did these laws reflect? Well, many of them reflected what’s in the laws dealt with this in this legislation. Eighty-nine of the strictly legislative part of that…. A majority reflected labour and employment rights, just like these bills did here.
In other words, if you were to get access to government contracts, you could not employ anyone who was Chinese Canadian or Japanese Canadian or South Asian. A whole bunch of them, 12, reflected what are called economic and social rights — peoples’ right to participate fully in the economy. Ten voting rights, nine immigration issues — those bills were largely disallowed by the federal government — and one, even, about vital statistics. Of the motion, most dealt with immigration but also labour and employment rights, the Chinese head tax, economic rights and taxes, health and voting rights.
They were consistently, as these are, derogatory in tone. In other words, the legislators who sat here didn’t see it as appropriate just to pass legislation that was discriminatory but to state within those legislations, as the purpose of those legislations, plainly vicious thoughts. Those were the ones supporting them. Those were the ones suggesting that people’s very existence undermined what was fundamental to our province.
The result of that was — this was the first strand, this was the British Columbia strand and this is what we’re dealing with in this bill today — the very exchange I talked about at the beginning between provincial and federal governments, a sort of legislative riot at the provincial level, disallowed 24 times by the federal government between 1878 and 1921.
What did the Prime Minister say? He reflected the other strand, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, in doing it. “It is better to have Chinese labour than no labour at all…. At any moment when the Legislature of Canada chooses, it can shut down the gate and say no more immigrants shall come here from China…and those in the country at the time will rapidly disappear. Therefore, there is no fear of permanent degradation…by a mongrel race.”
If you look at that in context, understand in context what this debate was and where we were as a province…. This is at the very root of our province. After all, the railway that created British Columbia was built by this labour. This is at the very root of where we are. It’s why it’s important not to place this kind of history and these kind of attacks on human rights, or to suggest that they can’t come back, as they are in some parts of the world today….
It’s important to place them in historical context. Surely, these are the last things, the absolute last things, that politicians should be using for political gain in the present, because they were used for that purpose in the past.
Consider this Legislature and what it did in 1927. Consider what the state of affairs was in 1927 — the Chinese head tax; the exclusion acts; second-class status; no right to vote; dozens of laws barring Chinese Canadians and Japanese Canadians and South Asians from jobs in the public service, working on public works. And this Legislature, this place, wasn’t satisfied.
They commissioned a report, the purpose of which was to decide whether legislation could be enacted to prevent the Chinese and Japanese Canadians from owning, selling, leasing or renting land in British Columbia — to cut off even one more step.
A report was issued from this Legislature, tabled in this House, that described the community that day. It describes some interesting things. For example, it showed that in the South Asian community, there were about 120 men to every woman and that people were being allowed in the country but denied the right to family. It showed that there were 37 Chinese-Canadian men for every woman in 1921, denying the right of people…. To be strictly treated in a society not as citizens or as family members but as economic tools of the economy, of the capitalist class at the time and of the state…. That is what they were. That is what that says. That is what those policies did.
Even then, even after that time, even after all of these laws had been passed to deny opportunity…. These issues were used in election campaigns, in the formative elections of the CCF, in the worst possible language. We know what was said and how it was said. We know that at the time, further ministers and Premiers attempted to use the potential of even more laws, even more racism, even more legislative action, to deny even more rights.
To suggest that every single problem in society, from crime to — and often this involved some parts of organized labour as well — low wages…. The lack of success in certain commercial professions of British Columbians
[ Page 14306 ]
was all put at the feet of Chinese Canadians, Japanese Canadians, South Asians, First Nations and others.
This was an effort on the part of government, of politicians, and it was a successful effort. Of course, we know the subsequent tragedy of what happened. This House has dealt with this, and my colleague from North Vancouver moved a motion of apology with respect to Japanese Canadians a number of years ago. We know its consequences in World War II for the Japanese-Canadian community, in particular, which would lose its land and a lot of its dignity and be interned in our very province.
These actions do not happen in the abstract. They are the result of decades of policies diminishing groups in society. That is what they’re the result of. What happens when you do that is that everything, ultimately, becomes allowed. It’s why it’s important that we’re doing what we do today.
I want to say a few things. I think the minister would agree with this. This action of eliminating these private acts whose discriminatory provisions — I think she’s acknowledged — would be overridden in the current context by human rights legislation, the Canadian Charter of Rights and other actions, is nonetheless important.
Why is apology important? Why is reconciliation important in this context and in other contexts?
I think, firstly, it’s because an apology is due. Here we have citizens of British Columbia in important and significant and broad ways — and in some cases, in remarkably petty ways — denied access to basic rights. Real losses were felt. A climate of hostility was promoted at an official level. Families were destroyed. But words are only words. Apology would only be words if action isn’t taken, and that’s why we are supportive of this legislation.
I think, secondly, it’s important to recognize that this history belongs to us. It’s ours. We own it as British Columbians. We are what we are today, good and bad, because of it. Our history of official racism influences our present — as much as past laws influence the present in other jurisdictions, from Alabama to Cape Town.
However, despite much of the progress we’ve made, the issues involved continue and will continue to affect us. They live with us, and recognizing this is not just important for Chinese Canadians and not just important for people who sit in the Legislature but important for all of society. We deprive ourselves the opportunity of being a better province if we don’t understand who we are and where we’ve come from.
Third, I think it’s the case that these are a great value as tools of education, and we hope they will continue to be that in future. That is why we took this process seriously. That is why — on the opposition side and on the government side — we engage with young people. That is why we need to ensure that these issues and this reality is taught in our public schools — taught in all of our schools, in fact — to ensure that these are not just moments of legislative talk but are real in society. We need to understand our history in a real sense. We can and we must do better.
Of course, finally, there’s this. We are living in a time of increasing labour mobility around the world, of increasing circumstances where individuals and groups are treated within their jurisdictions as second-class citizens. This happens in British Columbia as well. You know this, hon. Speaker, as a former leader of the Canadian Farm Workers. You understand this — that there are many circumstances in the world today where mobility of labour hasn’t been paralleled by mobility of rights.
Frequently in the world we live in today, where the value of labour at every turn has been under attack everywhere in the world, workers are at risk. Their rights are at risk. Their rights are at risk by action, which is ensuring second-class status for certain kind of workers, and reaction — anger about that in communities from around the world.
The leading candidate to be the next president of France — the person leading in the polls, the leader of the National Front — argues for just those sorts policies. There’ll be an election in the Netherlands this week. It’s a place that we generally associate with liberal views, but the leader in the polls, until very recently, was the leader of the extreme right.
Then we have the display that we know and see in its excess in the United States. The dispute and the need for resistance in that battle, which is being felt both in courtrooms and on the streets in the United States. These are the issues of their time, and we have to understand their impact.
British Columbia would have been a more prosperous, successful, dynamic province if these laws had not been in place. We would have grown more. We would be wealthier and happier and a better society if these laws hadn’t been in place.
The idea that it can’t happen again, the idea that it can’t happen here, is contrary to what we know, what history tells us: that it comes in waves. That is why what we’re doing here today is significant. It’s of importance. It’s not a passing thing; it’s an important thing. It’s important, even if these 19 laws don’t have force, for us to take the step of repealing the provisions within those laws today.
It’s important to recognize that 204 provisions, according to the minister’s statement, of laws in British Columbia had discriminatory content but were no longer enforced and to recognize that that happened.
It’s important to understand today that if legislators in this place had had their way, it would have been a whole bunch worse. Regularly, there were calls in this place for the expulsion of Canadians, born in Canada, from this place to China or to Japan or to India. It’s important to recognize what happened with theKomagata Maru, what happened in 1923 with the exclusion laws, what happened in 1941 and 1942 to Japanese Canadians.
[ Page 14307 ]
These are important things for us to do in the present to teach, to learn from — not to obsess about the past but to understand who we are and where we come from as a society.
It’s with great happiness, I think, that this process — with which we were involved in a small sense and which the minister has done great work on as well — ends in a vote of the Legislature that says something different, that speaks, hopefully, to who we are at this time and reminds us of how easy it is to slip away from that, to not be our best province, to not achieve our highest and loftiest goals, to not be what we can be.
As I said at the beginning of this speech, Canadian history was in consensus. The Canadian establishment was in consensus about the issue of whether Chinese Canadians, Japanese Canadians, South Asians and others should be second-class. The entire Canadian establishment, almost without exception in this country until the arrival of CCF, supported that view. Their only debate was how to discriminate, not whether to discriminate.
That is why we need to understand our past: not to point fingers at one another — because it’s our collective responsibility, surely — but to seek and hope for a better future. I’m proud to support this legislation.
Deputy Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, the Minister to close the debate.
Hon. T. Wat: I’d really like to thank the members from both sides of the House for making such a powerful and supportive statement regarding this important legislation. I really appreciate many of you sharing your personal stories with this House regarding the past.
I want to remind members that this legislation fulfils the government’s commitment to review discriminatory legislation identified in the provincewide public consultations. This legislation confirms that discriminatory provisions identified in the 19 private acts are repealed and ensures that going forward, British Columbia laws are no longer racist or discriminatory. It’s important to ensure that going forward, British Columbia is going to be just one province for all British Columbians.
It is the preference of the government to proceed with committee stage of the bill today, if we have time. We’ll be seeking leave for the House to do so later. With that, I move second reading.
[Madame Speaker in the chair.]
Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, the question is second reading of Bill 3, Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act.
Second reading of Bill 3 approved unanimously on a division. [See Votes and Proceedings.]
Hon. T. Wat: I move that the bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House at the next sitting after today.
Bill 3, Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. M. de Jong moved adjournment of the House.
Madame Speaker: This House, at its rising, stands adjourns until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 6:21 p.m.
Copyright © 2017: British Columbia Hansard Services, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada