Anti-Asian sentiment has ebbed and flowed in this city repeatedly, from the first waves of immigrants to, most recently, debates about race and real-estate that have raged on in this city over the past few years.
Even late last year, in the wake of the U.S. election of Donald Trump, two waves of anti-Chinese flyers were distributed in Richmond.
Are we learning from the discriminatory mistakes from the past? Or are we destined to perpetually make the same ones over and over again?
In an event that will help to provide some historical context for what is going on in contemporary Vancouver, the local centre for contemporary Asian art will be taking a look back at the first anti-Asian race riot that this city witnessed.
Local contemporary artist Henry Tsang will host the Unwelcome Dinner, a sit-down dinner presented by Centre A that will commemorate the 130th anniversary of Vancouver's first anti-Chinese riot.
After the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885, unemployed Chinese labourers began to look for work in Vancouver.
In 1887, white workers, who feared losing work to foreigners, amassed in Coal Harbour to drive out Chinese labourers who had been hired to clear the trees and stumps in the area that is now the West End. The angry mob attacked the labourers in their camp at the foot of Burrard Street, then moved on to Chinatown where they robbed homes and set buildings on fire.
Although this was the first race riot the city experienced, there would be others to come, including the 1907 Anti-Oriental Riots in which people attacked Chinese-owned businesses and homes, as well as Japantown.
The evening will feature several speakers who will address various facets of Chinese Canadian communities in Vancouver.
Local activist Hayne Wai will discuss institutional racism against Chinese people and raise the question of who is permitted to call Vancouver home.
Hua Foundation executive director Kevin Huang will talk about cultural traditions and historical awareness in relation to contemporary and youth culture within Chinese Canadian communities.
Food critic Stephanie Yuen will provide a historical look at the development and representation of Chinese cuisine in the city.
The three-course dinner will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on February 24 at the West End's Roedde House Museum (1415 Barclay Street), which was built seven years after the riots.
Local chefs Wesley Young and Jacob Deacon Evans will present a thematically related menu.
Update (February 17): Although all 24 seats are now full, interested diners can join the waitlist by email or calling Centre A at 604-683-8326. (Tickets are $60 per person.)