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.