Vancouver Mural Festival, at the core of its structure, does not represent a culturally diverse or marginal perspective as you might expect from a mural festival. Instead it is the initiative of a group of predominantly white men who have built alliances, not with the everyday people of Vancouver, but with real estate developers, Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) and the City government.
As Canada 150 draws nearer, those committed to supporting Indigenous sovereignty and dislodging the power of colonialism are faced with the task of dispelling the myth of Canada as a benevolent nation. While the expanding grip of neoliberalism has given rise to a reactionary global right-wing populism, the violence of supposedly “progressive” liberal settler-colonial states has fallen through the cracks of popular analysis and comprehension.
In 2008, Gregor Robertson built his successful mayoral campaign around the tragic death of Darrel Mikasko, a homeless man who burned to death trying to keep warm after being turned away from a Kitsilano shelter. But while Gregor was campaigning on a soon-broken promise, low income people in the Downtown Eastside were actively fighting against a new threat of displacement posed by Concord Pacific – this time on a property down the street from Woodward’s. The address was 58 W Hastings, evicted and demolished (“demovicted”) by Concord Pacific that same year.
The main thing I would like to do today is to concentrate on the question of where the history of racial scapegoating in Vancouver originated. To do that it’s important to begin from the beginning. One thing that I find helpful in these conversations is to think about the question, “Who belongs here?” – “here” meaning where we are in Vancouver, but also in Canada in general. Many of you have probably heard that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are settler colonies that were built around white supremacy as a way determining who does and does not belong.
Model Minority is a publication assembled by Gendai, a non-profit visual arts organization that engages the East Asian diasporic community in Canada. This volume is a collection of research in the form of essays, articles, and commissioned artist projects that broach the subject of “model minority” in North America. By combining artists projects with archival material, academic research and recent political activities, the book investigates a territory usually given exclusively to social sciences.
On June 24th, 2014, Vancouver city council voted unanimously to formally acknowledge that the city is built on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish Indigenous peoples. After more than a century of denial and erasure, the motion might have opened the way for real change in Vancouver. And yet when the motion was put forward, Councillor Andrea Reimer told the media that the gesture wouldn’t affect the legal practices of the City of Vancouver. “[Reimer] isn’t concerned,” reported the Toronto Sun, “about possible legal ramifications of declaring the city is on unceded territory because Vancouver is not involved in treaty negotiations and has no such authority over land.”
DTES Local Area Plan, Public Hearing
Friday, March 14th
Hello, my name is Julia Aoki and I would like to recognize that we are on unceded Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish First Nations territory. I am a PhD candidate in the School of Communication at SFU, a long-time volunteer, and former interim general manager of the Powell Street Festival Society that is held in Oppenheimer Park each year, and for some time (though no longer) I sat on the Oppenheimer Park Commemorative Task Force. I am here speaking on my own behalf.