A story by Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail remarks on the amazing cooperation of ethnic groups living in harmony, who have all found themselves creating a new west coast community. Richmond, the island city south of Vancouver on Canada's west coast, now finds it's previous Anglo city population has become multi ethnic. Richmond, has had so many waves of new Canadians, mostly from east Asia, more than half from China, also the Philippine's, Taiwan. Hong Kong and India; now more than half the population were born outside Canada. In fact of the city's 173,600 residents in 2006, 57.4 percent were foreign born. And the racial harmony has been remarkable in this city with the highest foreign born population in Canada. How this could happen is the happy harmony after decades of guilt, mis-placed and eventual accepting of each new wave of ethnics mixing with the Anglo's.
Locals can recall losing Japanese playmates and feeling hurt and anger as they saw them being trucked away, their homes and fishing boats sold at discount prices; this happened in Canada in tandem with American panic felt on both Pacific coastal cities after Pearl Harbor. Few Japanese Canadians returned to their previous homes after the war. The new waves began in earnest before the takeover of Hong Kong when many Chinese arrived, and this has continued from China and southeast Asia. Each new wave has tried to fit in with the existing society; even in rare cases where several shops in several malls placed only Chinese or other ethnic ads in their windows, causing discussion at city hall. No bylaw was necessary, after delegations reminded the merchants they were turning away potential customers. The signs are now all clearly in Chinese, Hindi, whatever plus English.
Richmond's violent crime rate is a fraction of any comparable American city, Mason reminds, and it has taken many meetings between differing groups to finds ways to live quite differently, and in a lovely island city by the sea, with the grand mountains as backdrop. I live also in a city surrounded by water with a view of mountains, lovely Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 50 miles by seagull or ferry from Richmond. Chinese legend is that to live at such a place is Heaven on Earth; all seem to try to behave accordingly, are excellent new Canadians.
I experienced an example of the new Canada, hopefully the new world while waiting recently at a mall escalator: ahead of me was an young Chinese Canadian lad with an elderly Chinese woman, obviously nervous about stepping on the escalator. She excitedly spoke loudly in Chinese, and I presumed she was asking the boy to help get her hand on the escalator hand hold. The young lad quickly looked back at me, an old white guy in a navy blazer, and he quickly said “speak English, grandma". And grandma shouted at him in English, “speak English, speak English. You no good little Chinese boy any more. You little Canadian boy", and muttered to herself in Mandarin, turning from him. His reply told me how the world should evolve when he responded, “Well, yeah, grandma. We live in Canada".
And just then, he and I looked down and saw three young boys coming by: an East Indian, a Chinese and an Anglo, and they all had same shop but different ball caps on and all gave each other a school wave, I presumed. Being inclusive with people can really create a good news story, indeed.
The Economist said several years ago that Canada does it Better: their point was as a nation of migrants Canada keeps learning to move over a bit, lots of room, how do you pronounce your name, welcome. More than riots as in London or Paris from isolated groups in a ghetto it is better to learn to live and let live, and that is what is happening, more than not, in Richmond. And as they say, or should, if you can make it happen there, you could make it happen anywhere.
Derek Dashwood grew up in Anglo Vancouver, moved with his family to Los Angeles in his Grad Year, and saw more racial diversity there than he could have imagined, mostly black and Mexican Americans with us Anglo kids, some Japanese. Since, back in Canada, fifty years later we have seen so many waves of Chinese and other South East Asians into coastal Canada that some cities have more foreign born residents than local. How this works out creates stresses but opportunities for us all to grow together, become more than we were, and we talk this at DashforPower