Belonging

How do you belong, feel a part of a place, feel included? How does it feel to be cut out, excluded, just because of who you are? Chinese came to the west coast of North America long before there was a nation called Canada. They arrived before there was a British Columbia. They arrived in 1788 in the territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation at the same moment that the first British arrived to build a fur trade fort, on board the same ship. They built the railroad that allowed the mass migration of Europeans to British Columbia. The Chinese did not arrive late. They were already here when the vast majority of European migrants arrived on the west coast. They did not come to “take away the jobs” of white Canadians. It was the opposite. In industry after industry, the Chinese already here were driven out and replaced by those who believed that this land and the best jobs belonged to those who were considered “white.” Despite their exclusion, Chinese Canadians have struggled to make a place for themselves, to find a sense of belonging among family and kin, within local communities, and as part of a society that often did not want them. As we re-imagine Canada’s history, we recreate a common past where those excluded and ignored can belong again.