By Teresa Wat, BC Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism
Learning from the past to prevent future discrimination was on the lesson plan when I joined the back-to-school crowd earlier this month to introduce a new curriculum supplement for grades 5 and 10 students: Bamboo Shoots: Chinese Canadian Legacies in BC.
As the most ethnically diverse province in Canada, British Columbia is known for its multiculturalism and respect for people of different cultures and backgrounds – in fact, that is partly why my family emigrated here over 25 years ago. But it wasn’t always this way.
Early Chinese pioneers came to British Columbia because they heard that B.C. welcomed diversity. But when more than 15,000 Chinese arrived during the early 1880s, they were denied the rights and privileges of other immigrants, including citizenship.
This was a shameful chapter for B.C. and that’s why, in 2014, a formal apology on behalf of all members of the B.C. legislature was made to Chinese Canadians for historical wrongs by past governments. At provincewide consultations, we asked British Columbians what the apology should look like and the overwhelming consensus at every forum was the need to integrate this forgotten chapter of B.C.’s Chinese Canadian history into our educational curriculum.
Starting this year, a dark chapter of B.C.’s history is explored in new online lesson plans and teaching tools titled Bamboo Shoots. The classroom materials reflect B.C.’s rich multicultural heritage and the immense social, cultural and economic contributions Chinese Canadians made to the development of British Columbia.
I am especially proud of the vivid tapestry of stories that are woven within the curriculum’s lesson plans. Photos, archival poems and even a printable card game bring the history of B.C. to life, challenging students to consider the deep roots of discrimination and the long-term effects it has on all British Columbians.
With the help of B.C. teachers, Open School BC, the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council, my ministry is proud of the collaboration and historical knowledge that went into Bamboo Shoots. The supplement is also accessible to the general public, ensuring global audiences can also learn from this chapter of B.C.’s history.
We can’t undo the past but we can move forward and leave a legacy for future generations to learn from. Bamboo Shoots will help today’s generation ensure that the wrongful acts of the past are not repeated in B.C.’s future.