Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting

This year marks 150 years (1871-2021) since BC joined Canada. This anniversary arrives at a critical moment: Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and other Indigenous peoples are challenging dispossession and environmental racism; the Black Lives Matter movement is demanding foundational change; Japanese Canadians are seeking BC restitution for the attempted ethnic cleansing of the province; and the fight against racisms associated with COVID-19 is broadening in response to systemic racism. 150 Years and Counting (150YC) is a new open-access, multi-media resource that documents how this recent cycle of anti-racist activism is part of a broader history of Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities challenging white supremacy for over 150 years – particularly since 1871 when BC joined Canada. Co-authored by activists & scholars from diverse communities, this resource will assist anti-racist educators, teachers, scholars, and policymakers in piercing the silences that too often have let racism fester in communities, corporations, and governments. 150YC is co-produced by the UVIC History project Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office.

The 80-page, fully illustrated 150YC booklet was released in February 2021, and can be accessed as a PDF HERE.

In July, the 150YC project also released a 3-part accompanying video series and an enhanced, interactive digital edition (EDE) targeted at educators. The EDE is a user-friendly online reading experience of the 150YC text and also contains a "Teachers' Corner" webpage and further learning materials including links to primary sources, community-based resources, learning activities, and more.

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Nicholas XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton is an assistant professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria and elected chief of Tsawout Nation (WSÁNEĆ). His doctoral work focused on the revitalization of his nation’s traditional reef net fishery. He is a co-author of “Whose Land Is It? Rethinking Sovereignty in British Columbia,” in BC Studies, 204 (Winter 2019/20).

Denise Fong is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia where her research focuses on critical heritage and Chinese Canadian history. She is the co-curator of A Seat at the Table - Chinese Immigration and British Columbia, produced by the Museum of Vancouver and UBC. She was the co-curator of Burnaby Village Museum’s award-winning exhibit, Across the Pacific that explored the history and legacy of Chinese Canadians in Burnaby.

Fran Morrison is a director with the BC Black History Awareness Society, managing and overseeing the content research and development for their website. She is the project manager for a BC Black History project with Digital Museums Canada.

Christine O’Bonsawin is the former director of Indigenous Studies at the University of Victoria. Of the Abenaki, Odanak Nation, her research focuses on Indigenous sport history. She co-edited the Journal of Sport History Special Edition: Indigenous Resurgence, Regeneration and Decolonization through Sport History (2019) as well as the special issue of B.C. Studies, (Un)Settling the Islands: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific (2020).

Maryka Omatsu is a judge and a member of the negotiating team that won the 1988 redress agreement with the federal government. She is the author of Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese Canadian Experience and producer of the video Swimming Upstream – Injustice Revealed. She currently is a director of the National Association of Japanese Canadians.

John Price is professor emeritus of history at the University of Victoria. He is the author of Orienting Canada: Race, Empire and the Transpacific (2011) and co-editor of the special issue of BC Studies, (Un)Settling the Islands: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific (2020).

Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra is the coordinator of the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley and co-curator of exhibits at the Sikh Heritage Museum, located at the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford BC. A PhD candidate in history at the University of British Columbia, she specializes in museum history using critical race theory.

Development Team

Jackie Bohez is the project’s advisor on multi-media production. With a background in organizational and cultural change, Jackie believes in the power of story-telling and video advocacy as a tool to engage people to create change. A recent co-recipient of Commffest’s Making a Difference Award, her videos address racial injustice, animal cruelty and community advocacy.

John Endo Greenaway is the project’s graphic designer/advisor. He is a designer, writer, taiko player and composer based in Port Moody, BC. He began exploring his mixed Japanese Canadian heritage as a founding member of Canada’s first taiko group in 1979, and has delved even deeper over the past 27 years as editor of The Bulletin: a journal of Japanese Canadian community, history & culture. He is a co-author of the 2017 book Departures: chronicling the expulsion of the Japanese Canadians from the west coast 1942-1949.

Jessica MacVicar is the project researcher and media developer. She recently completed her BA in Political Science and Social Justice Studies at the University of Victoria. She is excited to be a part of the ACVI project, to learn more about the history of this region, to challenge harmful, inaccurate colonial narratives, and to assist in educating others to advance a better future for all.

Brian Smallshaw is responsible for the project’s web development. Brian completed his M.A. in history at the University of Victoria in 2017. He lived for many years in Japan and other countries in Asia prior to moving to Saltspring Island. He is the author of “The Murakami Women of Saltspring Island” in BC Studies, 204 (Winter 2019/20). His book on the dispossession of Japanese Canadians on Saltspring Island, As If They Were the Enemy, was published in 2020.

Enhanced Digital Edition

Dr. Carmen Rodríguez de France acknowledges the privilege and responsibilities she holds for living on the land of the WSANEC Nation, and the Lekwungen and SENCOTEN speaking people in the province of British Columbia. She was born and raised in Monterrey, México, and embraces her heritage from the Kickapoo nation in North-eastern Mexico. Carmen is a member of the Department of Indigenous Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria where she arrived as an international student in 1996, graduating with her Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the same Faculty where she now works. She facilitates courses on Indigenous education, knowledge, and ways of knowing, and collaborates with other programs across campus such as Social Justice and the Latin American Studies Program. Her career in education spans thirty-five years previously working as a school teacher, and most recently with pre-service teachers, and Indigenous children, youth, and adults in diverse educational contexts.

Karine Ng has been dreaming of a more just and liberated society since the age of 4. Emerging from many years of colonial oppression and capitalism-induced depression, she reaches out to all those who share the same dream. Her work is anchored in education, spanning across diverse ages and socio-cultural settings in the ancestral lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and the Tseil-Waututh people, and elsewhere. She works through the lens of critical inquiry and with a keen interest in participatory democracy. Karine is the treasurer of the Anti-Oppression Educators Collective.

Copyediting: Ann-Marie Metten

Support: Consuela Covring, UVIC

Printing: East Van Graphics


Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific (ACVI), University of Victoria

Funded by a four-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, the University of Victoria research project “Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific” partnered with small museums on Vancouver Island and adjacent islands to collect stories and archival materials related to Asian Canadian (including Japanese, Chinese, and South Asian Canadians) and Indigenous peoples on the islands. The project, with its partners, organized a 2017 travelling exhibit, 150 Years and Counting: Fighting for Justice on the Coast and an accompanying booklet by the same name. Last year two of the project researchers, Christine O’Bonsawin and John Price, co-edited a special issue of BC Studies, (Un)Settling the Islands: Race, Indigeneity, and the Transpacific. ACVI is pleased to co-publish with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC Office) this new work.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC Office)

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social, economic and environmental justice. The CCPA BC Office investigates key challenges facing our province, and proposes policy solutions that promote systemic change. For further information see:


Challenging Racist “British Columbia,” 150 Years and Counting retells history from the perspective of the marginalized; white supremacist origins and the marginalization of Indigenous, Black and Asian peoples as well as staunch historical and contemporary anti-colonial and anti-racist resistance. Vividly illustrated, concise, accessibly and engagingly written, this gem of a text o­ffers difficult knowledge about the past, examples of continued activism in the present and hence hope for an equitable future.

Handel Kashope Wright, Centre for Culture, Identity & Education, University of British Columbia

At a time in our history when we have seen unprecedented changes in society, this book provides the foundational knowledge and justification for the need to drastically challenge the deep-rooted racism in so-called “British Columbia.” This book beautifully represents the resistance ovements currently underway that seriously challenge another 150 years of racist “British Columbia.”

Sleydo (Molly Whickham), spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, Wet’suwet’en

150 Years and Counting is a ‘must read’ for all Canadians. Rarely has a book on British Columbia covered the story of systemic racism so fully and powerfully as this one. It should be a staple of classrooms and households across the county.

Wendy Wickwire, professor emerita, BC history; author of award-winning biography of James Teit, At the Bridge.

This is an accessible and engaging resource that will help teachers and students in an anti-racist process of understanding how a long history of racism has left enduring consequences that must be undone for British Columbia to truly achieve its promise of a just and inclusive society. The authors have used concise prose and e­ffective visuals to convey difficult and yet important ideas in a clear and e­ffective manner.

Henry Yu, University of British Columbia

With Challenging Racist “British Columbia,” 150 Years and Counting, the authors provide a wonderfully dense history of the fight against racism in BC. Readable, pithy, concise, and brief; packed with incredible stories of resistance and exposing the role of the BC government in constructing a white province that has led to a history of racism and discrimination.

Jennifer Iredale, former director, Heritage Branch, Government of BC

A timely, multi-faceted, accessible assessment of the complexity of racism in this province. It is an excellent step, as voiced in the introduction, “in the development of inclusive, intersectional analyses to support decolonization”.

Sherri Kajiwara, Director|Curator, Nikkei National Museum

This new resource gives a much-needed, fresh and intercultural look at BC history from previously marginalized perspectives, including those of our host First Nations. The book is an accessible “must-read” for anyone wanting to understand how systemic racism came to be embedded within BC society and institutions.

Wendy Yip (President) and Winnie Cheung (Executive Director), Pacific Canada Heritage Centre-Museum of Migration Society

150 Years and Counting not only covers a wide range of racisms and links past racisms to contemporary discriminations but, importantly, it also provides accounts of resistance and strength of Indigenous peoples, Black peoples and other people of colour in what we now know as British Columbia. The beautiful stories, creative works and images make this an accessible and engaging resource that should be widely shared.

Rita Kaur Dhamoon, anti-racist feminist, co-author of Unmooring the Komagata Maru: Charting Colonial Trajectories.