From July 29th – July 31th we brought the anti-Racism roadshow to Lillooet (our first two events took place at Whistler and Chilliwack in June and July). In Lillooet we convened with the First Nations Chief, the local Friendship Centre, the Quaker community, the Japanese community, Tribal Police, and other faith/IBPoC community representatives.
As part of our continuing work to addresses the root causes of individual and systemic racism, our team was in Lillooet, B.C. as part of the Great B.C. Anti-Racism Roadshow. The roadshow is a direct effort to combat racism and discrimination at the local level, educate allies and stakeholders, share learnings, and build real world anti-racism networks. During the roadshow we:
- Heard from 10 community leaders in Lillooet.
- Introduced Resilience B.C. to 5 local community organizations and support groups.
- Convened 8 different faith groups with one another, many for the first time.
- Formed a new relationship with the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police – the only Indigenous Police Service in B.C.
- Spoke with 30 members of the public during the Anti-Racism Happy Hour
- Compiled “What we heard” reports regarding community resilience and racism in Lillooet.
We wanted to thank you for representing Resilience B.C.’s Hub and Spoke Network in the official launch of the Great B.C. Anti-Racism Roadshow in Whistler! Tariq and I loved spending time with Mohammed, who is not only a passionate and caring person, but incredibly knowledgeable about Whistler and the community there.
We were also honoured to meet with Mayor Jack Crompton in his beautiful city. He joined us for both the official relaunch of Friday Prayer services for Whistler’s Muslim community at the Maury Young Arts Centre, as well as for the first convening of the Anti-Racism Roadshow. His team, especially Erin Marriner, were very receptive and helpful in arranging the meetings.
Together we learnt about the culture, faith, history, and beauty of T’it’q’et culture and peoples as well as the history of immigrants and settlers in Lillooet. Part of this history was the gold rush, the influx of Chinese and American peoples, and the relationships between many different people. There was also the difficult history of Canada’s Japanese Internment Camps during World War 2.
We collected information regarding on-the-ground realities faced by minorities in the region, and the challenges they face, as well as the support and welcome they receive. We connected with Miyazaki House Society – whose co-founder brought our youth group to visit the site of the Japanese Internment Camp located in Lillooet.
The vision for the anti-racism Happy Hour is to bring together people from diverse backgrounds to meet each other and engage in open, facilitated, conversations about their cultures, the difficulties they face, their lived experiences, and the questions they have for people from different backgrounds.
Meeting one another to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and break bread is a meaningfully way to bring down walls of ignorance. The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in America has shown that personal engagement with new immigrants, religious minority groups, and refugee groups directly leads to a reduction in negative views and discrimination towards those groups (more than twice as likely to have a favorable opinion).
Our first ever Anti-Racism Happy Hour was hosted at the Abundance Café and Bakery. We are grateful to Dana and Craig, the owners of Abundance who facilitated our event. The belief which motivated them to open their bakery, that good bread had the potential to bring people together, influenced their mission to create products that could nourish both the individual and the collective whole. This perfectly matched the vision for our Anti-Racism Happy Hour. For those who visit Lillooet – the Abundance Café and Bakery a great place in town to grab a coffee and some scrumptious treats!
At our event, which lasted 3 hours, we had many members of the public come by to meet with us, once they heard that we are representatives of Province’s Anti-Racism Network. The member of the public who came were curious, inquisitive, and open to asking each other about their backgrounds, beliefs, and history.
Of the conversations we had we wanted to share some of our learnings, from those who agreed to share their participation.
Mariko Kage, Educator and co-founder of the Miyazaki House Society
One of the key discussions we had was with Mariko Kage (who would later take our team on a tour of the Japanese Internment Camps in Lillooet). She is an educator, author, community activist, and co-founder of the Miyazaki House Society. Her experiences as a Japanese Canadian and mother to indigenous children, have given her a unique perspective to addressing racism. Her comments regarding the importance of anti-racism and inclusive history education in schools were very impactful. One item she highlighted was that:
- Much of the racism she saw in schools was driven by parents of students. Members of the PTA (Parent Teacher Associator) would openly disparage Indigenous and minority students for bringing down the quality of their children’s education.
In most of the research done on racism in education systems, this issue was rarely highlighted. We believe that investigations into the intersection of PTAs, elected Student Boards, and racial discrimination needs to be conducted as part of a holistic approach to addressing systemic racism in education.
Alfi Eden Archaeologist, Visual Artist, Jeweller,, and founder of Arte Fact Jewels
During our outreach at the Lillooet Farmers Market, we met Alfi Eden. She is a jewellery designer and archaeologist whose work with new immigrants, minorities, and First Nations people is reflected in her work. She discussed how important it is to understand how communities’ artistic expressions reflect their histories, realities, and futures. Key learnings she shared included:
- The value she got in connecting with refugee families and how it improved her appreciation for Canada’s diversity. She intended to take the model of the Anti-Racism Happy Hour with her to the places she visits in the future.
Mary Jane Oakes, representative from the Baháʼí community
Lillooet is home to a small community from the Baháʼí faith. There are about 30,000 Followers of the faith in Canada. The principal Bahāʾī tenets are the essential unity of all religions and the unity of humanity. Bahāʾīs believe that all the founders of the world’s great religions have been manifestations of God and agents of a progressive divine plan for the education of the human race.
Our conversation with Mary focused on the importance of tolerance and inclusion regarding followers of other faith in Canada and how education systems play a tremendous role in preparing youth to understand the beliefs, perspectives, and faiths of other people.
Dr. Miyazaki and Miyazaki House Society
During World War II Lillooet’s only doctor passed away and Lillooet was left with no option for health care. While taking photos in Bridge River; a resident of Lillooet, met a man in the Japanese internment camp named Mr. Miyazaki. Mr. Miyazaki happened to be a doctor that was not allowed to practice due to the internment. When Artie returned to Lillooet, he wrote a petition; which the town’s people signed, to have Dr. Miyazaki and his family taken out of the internment camp and brought into his home. When the government approved the petition Dr. Miyazaki moved into what is now known as the Miyazaki House. He became Lillooet’s new doctor and started making history.
Dr. Miyazaki was still not a free man. He had rules to keep him contained in the Lillooet area. He was only allowed to travel to near by areas for medical emergencies. Dr. Miyazaki would travel by horse, car or walk.
Dr. Miyazaki wouldn’t only help people in Lillooet, he would also help the animals that needed his care. Dr. Miyazaki would travel to near by areas to deliver babies or help someone who was injured and not fit to travel. Dr. Miyazaki would have patients show up on his doorstep at all hours, day or night, and he would always welcome them with a smile on his face. While he was taking care of his patients, Mrs. Miyazaki would make tea for them to have once the doctor was finished. Every patient he had he treated with care.
Dr. Miyazaki brought many great things into Lillooet including Lillooet’s very first ambulance and the Boy Scouts. He was also a member of Elks Canada. Dr. Miyazaki was the first Japanese Canadian to hold office; in 1950 and a few years following he was an Alderman in Lillooet. In 1977 he received the Order of Canada for all his achievements.
The Miyazaki House is a monument for Lillooet and a cultural oasis for all ages while keeping the memory and history of the Phair and Miyazaki families alive. They feature local music, heritage, and education.
Lillooet Farmers Market
We went to Lillooet Farmers Market and convened with the local BIPOC and settler community – 30 people. The social hub of Lillooet every Friday morning, May through October. Tents and tables start going up early in the morning as vendors set up their welcoming spaces.
The Farmers Market was where we engaged in one-on-one engagement with the many of the people of Lillooet and surrounding area. What we found that there was limited awareness of the mission, and resources of Resilience B.C. and the Anti-Racism Network.
Many of the folks at the Market had never met people from the Muslim faith before. We were able to share an introduction to the faith tradition, that Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion, teaching that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided humanity through prophets, including Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad. It is the world’s second-largest religion with 1.9 billion followers known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 47 countries and over a million Canadian Muslims.
We introduced all community members we met to the Resilience B.C. Anti-Racism Network and shared the tools they needed to connect with their local spoke, our organization as the Province Wide Faith Community Convener, and Resilience B.C.
Breakfast with Quakers
We had the privilege to meet with Sarah and Trevor from the Quaker community (known formally as the Religious Society of Friends). We learnt that Quakers believe that every person is loved and guided by God. Broadly speaking, they affirm that “there is that of God in everyone.”
The Quaker way has deep Christian roots that form our understanding of God, our faith, and our practices. Many Quakers consider themselves Christian, and some do not. Many Quakers today draw spiritual nourishment from our Christian roots and strive to follow the example of Jesus. Many other Quakers draw spiritual sustenance from various religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and the nature religions. Some key clarification about the Quaker faith:
- The name Quaker comes from one quaking in the presence of God
- Quaker Oats Cereal is not associated with Quakers
- William Penn and John Cadbury aren’t the only famous Quakers. Two U.S. presidents grew up Quaker — Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon — and Quaker actors include James Dean and Judi Dench.
Sarah and Trevor are also supporters of Peace Brigades International (PBI). PBI provide protection, support and recognition to local human rights defenders who work in areas of repression and conflict and have requested support. PBI believes that lasting transformation of conflicts cannot come from outside, but must be based on the capacity and desires of local people. They avoid imposing, interfering or getting directly involved in the work of the people they accompany. Their work is effective because they take an integrated approach, combining a presence alongside human rights defenders on the ground with an extensive network of international support.
Due to this meeting we were able to connect to the Quaker community in Vancouver B.C. We plan to develop this relationship and foster greater understating between other faiths and the Quaker community as part of our mandate as the Official Faith Based Community Convener for Resilience B.C.
Tribal Police at Tim Hortons
The Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service is British Columbia’s only Tribal Police Service. They provide full policing services to 10 of eleven St’at’imc Nation communities. Their Headquarters is located at their Mount Currie office. Where, they provide policing services to southern St’at’imc communities. Their satellite detachment in Lillooet provides policing services to 5 northern communities. There are 12 officers who are responsible for providing policing services to First Nations communities within an area of 22,000 km.
In 1986 the Lillooet first nation band council established a security program where officers patrolled reserves and worked with the RCMP to prevent and prosecute crime. In 1988 the council built on the security program by forming the peacekeepers for the communities of T’itq’et, Tsalalth, and Lil’wat.
STPS is the only First Nations Administered Police Service (FNAPS) in British Columbia. Modeled on the structure of an independent municipal police department, the department is governed by a police board selected from the communities served. Police officers appointed by the board are either experienced officers or graduates of the Justice Institute of British Columbia, Police Academy.
During our time in Lillooet we had the pleasure to meet with Sergeant Dale Austinson and Cst. Leonard Isaac from the Tribal Police. We invited them for coffee at Tim Hortons and heard about the work the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police does as well as their focus on culturally sensitive policing and restorative justice. The stories of the Sergeant Austinson, Cst. Isaac, and their team can be seen on the TV show Tribal Police Files on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
We are grateful to Neil, the owner and proprietor of the Lillooet Tim Hortons for his support to the Anti-Racism Roadshow. Neil is an immigrant from India who was able to merge his love of people with his passion for entrepreneurship – he has generously offered to host any future Anti-Racism Happy Hours in Lillooet.
Bridge River-Lillooet News
During our first morning in Lillooet, we met with the folks at the Bridge River-Lillooet News – the community newspaper serving Lillooet and area since 1934. They were able to help us with printing our promotional materials and advised us to visit the Farmers Market to speak to a wide representation of the local community. What stood out was that even though they were closed, when we asked for help the doors opened immediately.
The Lillooet Museum
The visitor centre is the place to visit to gather local, regional and provincial information. The Museum, which is also the town’s official Visitor Centre, is housed in the former Anglican Church, St. Mary’s the Virgin, which was built in 1961, incorporating materials from the original St. Mary’s Church, built in 1860. The museum houses artifacts from the Fraser Gold Rush and the several other gold rushes in the vicinity, belongings and household items and photos from the region’s families, the second largest mounted elk head trophy ever registered in British Columbia and First Nations artifacts of the St’at’imc (Lillooet people).
During our trip, we were honored to be hosted by Pat and Ike at the Retasket Lodge. They spoke with us about their 5-year journey to the arctic circle and the time they spent living with the Inuit people. The learnings they gained during their travels, regarding the Inuit spirt of hospitality and welcome for the traveler, played a part in them deciding to open a motel.
The people of Northern Canada and those living in the artic circle have been particularly affected by Climate Change. Their culture, diet, and way of life are dependent on the rhythms of the ice – which has been disappearing year after year. With the Climate Crisis, we are not only loosing the environment, but also the cultures, languages, faiths, and ways of life tied to specific environments.
We felt that hospitality while we stayed there and have an upcoming podcast with Ike to discuss his journey and learnings in greater detail.
The Environmental Roadshow Report
Part of our Foundation’s mission is to highlight and address climate change issues, particularly those that disproportionally affect IBoC peoples due to Environmental Racism. Racial discrimination in environmental policy-making, the enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate targeting of communities of colour for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities, and the history of excluding people of colour from leadership of the ecology movements.
We witnessed mountains on fire and the destruction being wrought across our province. Many of the areas being affected by wildfires are Indigenous reservations and lands.
We also witnessed some of the virtually unspoiled beauty of Nature. Lake Seton in Lillooet. It is a beautiful freshwater lake surrounded by mountains. Interesting local First Nations History tells how Simon Fraser came to the community seeking a way to the Pacific Ocean. The local community told him to go down Seton Lake and he would find rivers to take him down to the coast. However, believing that the Indigenous people were trying to trick him, Fraser went over land and faced many hardships. Due to his dismissal of their advice, a 1–2-week journey took him 6 months.