Challenging Racist "British Columbia" book to be launched on international antiracism day

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      A new book delving into the history of racism in B.C. questions the very name of Canada's westernmost province.

      Nicholas XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton, Denise Fong, Fran Morrison, Christine O’Bonsawin, Maryka Omatsu, John Price, and Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra wrote Challenging Racist "British Columbia": 150 Years and Counting.

      "We put that name in quotation marks and ask you to join us in questioning its origins and probing its past—does the term 'British Columbia,' named after a colonizing empire and Christopher Columbus, not embody and project the history of racism in this province?" the authors write.

      The 80-page book is meticulously footnoted and can be downloaded for free or printed at and at

      At 3 pm. on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21), UBC legal scholar Carol Liao will moderate an online discussion with the authors. Registration is free.

      "The movement against COVID-19-related racisms has brought to the fore young activists organizing to stop Sinophobic attacks and hate crimes targeting Indigenous or Asian peoples who appear 'Chinese'," they write in the introduction. "No longer are they willing to tolerate the treatment of non-whites as perpetual foreigners."

      This upsurge in antiracism is also no accident, the authors assert. "It reflects a new generation's changing values in a province where systemic racism remains widespread."

      The first chapter includes a First Peoples' Language Map of British Columbia, which was provided by the First People's Cultural Council, as well as historical and contemporary photos.

      It's also full of historical insights as it outlines how the Doctrine of Discovery was applied to erase Indigenous peoples' claims to the land in the 19th century. In addition, it explains how a former land commissioner and B.C.'s first lieutenant-governor, Joseph Trutch, refused to discuss treaties.

      "The Indians have really no right to the lands they claim, nor are they of any actual value or utility to them," Trutch said, "and I cannot see why they should either retain these lands to the prejudice of the general interests of the Colony, or be allowed to make a market of them either to Government or to individuals."

      Trutch has a street named after him on the West Side of Vancouver.

      The book also chronicles resistance over 150 years to this colonialist white supremacy, right up to the recent land defence launched by Wet'suewet'en hereditary chiefs against the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

      The other five chapters carry the following headings:

      * "British Columbia?" 1858: Origins of Black and Chinese Communities;

      * "British Columbia?" A Franchise Act from the Era of Slavery;

      * "British Columbia?" Resilient Communities: South Asian and Beyond;

      * "British Columbia?" The Attempted Ethnic Cleansing of Japanese Canadians;

      * "British Columbia?" Change and Challenges: Systemic Racism.

      The book was created as a result of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant to the University of Victoria research project Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race Indigeneity and the Transpacific (ACVI).

      ACVI co-published Challenging Racist "British Columbia": 150 Years and Counting with the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.