Canadians must dig deep, find “empathy” for indigenous people, Bill Chu says

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      There is an audible frustration as Vancouverite Bill Chu searches for an adequate way to express his long-held belief that not enough awareness exists of what he has called the “Native plight”.

      For a number of years now, the Hong Kong immigrant has tried to do this through his work as president of Canadians for Reconciliation, an organization that seeks to move beyond the lens of colonial thinking and raise “empathy” for the first peoples of this area.

      Chu, a Christian, started the Chinese Christians in Action Society in 1989, and he often takes large groups of Canadians, including recent Chinese immigrants, to the Mount Currie reserve.

      Last week, Chu once again addressed the Native plight, as members of the St’at’imc First Nation prepared to speak at the United Nations regarding their belief that their people’s inherent right to land and resources is being usurped by governments—British Columbia and Canada—to which they never ceded the land. Their vast territory stretches beyond the Coast Mountains and all the way to Taseko Lake, fanning out east all the way to Lillooet.

      “The story is not about me; the story is about these people,” Chu said.

      The UN’s Tenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is taking place May 16 to 27 at UN Headquarters in New York City.

      “Only Lil’watmc can speak for the Lil’wat of the St’at’imc,” James Louie of the St’at’imc Nation said in his prepared written speech to UN delegates provided to the Straight by Chu. “We are not Canadian and English is not our first language. We have suffered persistently for 150 years under the assertion of jurisdiction being carried out by the Canadian Province of British Columbia. We have suffered the indignities, oppression, dispossession, and deprivation of colonial racism and rule, which have denied us our rights and freedoms as human beings and our identity as St’at’imc citizens.”

      Indigenous self-determination is also set out clearly in Article 1 of both covenants of the UN International Bill of Human Rights, Louie wrote. However, he said the illegal selling of land and resources and elimination of the hereditary system of governance in favour of elected officials and the imposition of the Indian Act is counter to self-determination, according to Louie.

      “Canada administers poverty rations to each Indian Reserve, which are then distributed by the elected leaders, while Canadian, British Columbian and multinational corporations reap the riches of our lands, waters and resources that they deny us or restrict our access to.”

      Chu said people need to consider Vancouver as one of the largest “reserves” in the country, because he said he believes that First Nations citizens have been displaced from their communities. And he said people need to ask themselves why First Nations lead the way in all the wrong areas, such as their high showing in the homeless population, their lack of education, poor life expectancy, and incarceration levels.

      Comments

      8 Comments

      Ernie Crey

      May 19, 2011 at 8:17pm

      Bill is such a remarkable man. His hard work and dedication to improving relationships between the broader society and First Nations is deeply appreciated. I am glad to call him my friend.

      8 4Rating: +4

      glen p robbins

      May 20, 2011 at 2:56pm

      I believe there is a lot of diggin deep to do - with --many people--and native people for certain. It is not something people do easily - unless they can be connected in some way with the people involved.

      How can we begin to connect our young children with native communities in interaction and understanding of native culture - also it would be valuable to have CBC - our public broadcaster be funded to provide more information on native culture - as another way to connect.

      Naturally - more people like Mr. Chu would be valuable - can I help?

      7 5Rating: +2

      K. J. Todd

      May 20, 2011 at 10:17pm

      You could look at the City of Vancouver's Dialogue Project, which is working to build relations between Aboriginal people and immigrants (non-Native settlers too). This is a pretty good model for creating learning opportunities--cultural exchanges, dialogue circles, and more. It is wonderful when non-Native people work to build relationships and understanding with Aboriginal people. I do appreciate the work Bill Chu has done.

      Also, there is a great event at the Museum of Vancouver next Thursday, with a screening of Cedar and Bamboo (a film about people who are of mixed Chinese and Aboriginal heritage), with a panel discussion about creating greater understanding between our cultures. Senator Lillian Dyck (herself mixed Chinese and Aboriginal) will be there! I am encouraged by the growing dialogue.

      5 4Rating: +1

      glen p robbins

      May 21, 2011 at 12:15pm

      Thank you K.J.

      6 5Rating: +1

      glen p robbins

      May 21, 2011 at 2:06pm

      The Dialogue distinguishes between First Nations and Urban Aboriginals -how does this happen in terms of 1) Story Gathering; and 2) Dialogue Circles?

      Vancouver has a high Asian population - and reference is made between Chinese "Immigrants" and Aboriginals in this Dialogue - are Indo Canadians (South Asian Immigrants) participating at the same rate as their population reflects in the City of Vancouver demographics?

      What is the participation of European (Caucasian) Immigrants (origin) in these Dialogues?

      Could these Dialogue Circles be undertaken in other cities in the province - particularly with diverse cultures?

      7 4Rating: +3

      Peter F

      May 21, 2011 at 8:51pm

      My great-great-great grandfather came to Canada in 1792. He married a cree woman. As with most families in the Hudson Bay area and the red river, metis children were very common. This includes most of Quebec. Many of Canadian families have mixed European and first nation lineage. However, for all intensive puposes, we metis are considered European. We do not have a tribe, we have a country. I know that the Salish are much different than the cree, but I have more than once been told to get off of someones land. That some how I stole this land. My blood, through my cree great-great-great grandmother, gives me all inherent rights to this land. I may not have first nation culture. I may only speak english. However, I treat every human and their cultures with respect. I just think that yes we need to respect and honour the past but what is more important is how do we live together with each other in the future.

      6 6Rating: 0

      Kakila-Hereditary Chief

      May 26, 2011 at 7:17pm

      This includes the lack of free and informed consent at the In-Shuck-ch Treaty table. Treaty gatherings only talk about Governance, and not what is being negotiated. People are lead to believe that they will be independant, but don't realize that All Treaty Settlement Land Title will belong to the BC Government. Plus there has never been any formal Referendum to surrender Aboriginal Title from Samahquam to In-Shuck-ch. In 2005 only 54 of more than 900 Members of the Three Bands took part in a declaration of an Inshuckch Nation. Fraud and Misrepresentation is taking place. Apparently more than 16 Million dollars is owed to Treaty Loans.

      8 6Rating: +2

      4Subsidiarity

      Oct 22, 2011 at 5:20pm

      I attended one of these trips to Mt. Currie. I was shocked to discover that not only do they not see themselves as Canadian, some of them, who were obviously educated in Canadian schools have even withdrawn themselves from the school system as teachers to go back to the land. The answer is not more money and the Mt. Currie reserve is unique in some of its attitudes and beliefs about what other aboriginal tribes such as the Celts, Angles, Saxons, Friesians did when they travelled in their long boats and canoes to trade with other aboriginals on the shores of what is now Greenland and Newfoundland. The myth about `small pox blankets` being thrown from trains is just one of them. My suggestion is that Mr. Chu and the Mt. Currie band go and visit the Osoyoos band and see what they have achieved. Colonialism is an outdated accusation that has run its course. Absolutely no change is possible for the Mt. Currie band unless they begin a discussion among themselves about their long term future within the limitations they find themselves in. Unfortunately, they have appropriated the romantic myth (a myth most often appropriated by the academic elites) that the old ways are the best ways but have conveniently ignored the darks side of the old ways....the superstitions, the tribal warfare, the health issues and so on. Unless they begin to accept that they are a nation within a country and are now in the modern world, with all its problems, nothing will change. They will only be handing down these attitudes to their children. That`s the saddest part of all.

      7 6Rating: +1