In Video: A Brown Bag History of the Chinese Community in Revelstoke

By David F. Rooney

Revelstoke Museum & Archives Curator Cathy English presented one of her most interesting, and troubling, Brown Bag Histories — the Chinese Community in Revelstoke.

Interesting because there are few things more interesting than the arrival and integration of new arrivals into our society; and troubling because of the shameful way that Chinese immigrants were demonized as the ‘Yellow Peril,’ exploited, cheated, starved and forced out towns such as Revelstoke that sought to remain lily-white by attempting to restrict the jobs available to Chinese men and even burning them out of the tiny shacks they built as their humble dwellings. And that wasn’t enough; they were systematically humiliated through unjust heavy axes intended to separate them from their wives and children across the Pacific. Those Chinese who succeeded in establishing business were prevented through unjust laws from hiring European women as employees.

Yet these people continued their active quests to become accepted and integrated into Revelstoke and the other cities and towns of BC.

It’s surely difficult for young people today to understand just how much bigotry existed in BC and the rest of Canada until about 50 years ago. Things were beginning to change but it was common for children in Vancouver in the late 1950s and early ’60s to talk about — and I’ll apologize here for the expressions — ‘Japs’ and ‘Chinks.’ Today, you never hear children or adults speak about their neighbours like that. But we haven’t yet eliminated bigotry and prejudice, yet — not by a long shot.

In this Brown Bag History Cathy also discusses the courage and hopeful perseverance of our Chinese-Canadian neighbours and the good will that eventually overtook European-Canadians in general.

Please activate the YouTube player below to watch this deeply interesting Brown Bag History: