Chinese British Columbians, leaders of a number of First Nations and representatives of the Town of Lytton gathered today for the unveiling of a special commemorative plaque honouring early Chinese settlers.
George Chow, Minister of State for Trade, unveiled the plaque. The plaque celebrates the many contributions of the Chinese to the community of Lytton, despite systemic racism and discrimination at the time.
“Chinese settlers played a key role in shaping the history, culture and economy of Lytton and British Columbia,” said Chow. “This plaque recognizes their courage in the face of great hardship and injustice. It also serves to remind us how racism has marred our province’s past, and that it has no place in our future.”
The plaque commemorates the province’s formal apology to Chinese Canadians in 2014 for historical wrongs committed by early B.C. governments. It was designed after extensive consultations with area residents.
“Our community benefitted from those early Chinese settlers,” said Jessoa Lightfoot, mayor of Lytton. “I hope this plaque will remind us of the great sacrifice and contributions of the Chinese community, and encourage us to celebrate diversity everywhere in our community, province and country.”
Chinese settlers came to the region in the mid-1800s to take part in the Fraser Canyon gold rush and to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Many developed strong relationships with local First Nations people and chose to stay in Lytton when the railway was finished, becoming pillars of the community.
“I want to thank the First Nations in Lytton for accepting the early Chinese settlers and helping us put down roots and succeed in British Columbia,” said Lily Chow, director of multiculturalism for New Pathways to Gold Society. “I’m so proud that our history in Lytton is recognized, and this plaque will remain for future generations to learn about our past.”
Lytton’s commemorative plaque is part of $1 million in legacy projects undertaken by the provincial government to celebrate the positive contributions of Chinese Canadians to British Columbia. The legacy projects fulfil recommendations from the Chinese Historical Wrongs Final Report.
- In 1788, the first Chinese workers to come to British Columbia landed in Nuu-chah-nulth territory (Nootka Sound). They were part of Captain John Meares’ expedition to build the first year-round, non-Indigenous settlement.
- Today, B.C. is home to more than 460,000 Chinese Canadians.
- The B.C. government has introduced a series of legacy projects to commemorate the recommendations in the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report. The adoption of the recommendations, including legacy projects, was guided with advice from the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council.
- The other Chinese legacy commemorative monuments are located in:
- Ashcroft Chinese Cemetery
- Barkerville Heritage Park
- Cumberland Chinese Cemetery
- Kamloops Chinese Cemetery
- Kelowna Memorial Cemetery
- Victoria Chinatown
For more information about the Chinese legacy projects, visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/multiculturalism-anti-racism/chinese-legacy-bc
For more information about the Chinese Historical Wrongs Final Report and Recommendations, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/our-history/historic-places/documents/heritage/chinese-legacy/final_report_and_recommendations.pdf