By: Charles Lammam and Milagros Palacios in Vancouver 

With home prices rising across the country, many of us would likely assume that housing costs (including rent and mortgage payments) are the most expensive budget item for the average Canadian family.

In reality, however, the average Canadian household spends more on taxes than any other expense—including housing. Specifically, in 2016 the average Canadian family (including single Canadians) earned $83,105 in income and paid $35,283 in total taxes. That’s 42.5 per cent of income going to taxes.

Surprised? You’re not alone.

For most of us, the income and payroll tax deductions on our paycheques do not total anything close to this percentage. But to understand the full cost of taxation, you must consider all the taxes—both visible and hidden—that we pay throughout the year to federal, provincial and municipal governments including sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, carbon taxes, import taxes, alcohol taxes and much more. All these taxes add up and make our overall tax bill expensive.
So how does the overall tax bill compare to housing costs?

The average Canadian family spends 22.1 per cent of its income on housing—only about half as much as it spends on taxes (again, 42.5 per cent).

In fact, taxes consume more of the average family’s income than all the basic necessities of life combined. If you add up the average family’s spending on housing, food and clothing in a year, it comes to 37.4 per cent of its income—still quite a bit less than what we pay in taxes.

With 42.5 per cent of income going to taxes, Canadian families may rightfully wonder whether they get good value for their tax dollars. Of course, taxes fund important government services. But we shouldn’t simply assume that higher taxes always provide better government services.

While it’s ultimately up to individual Canadians and their families to decide if they’re getting the best bang for their money, you must know how much you pay in total taxes to make an informed assessment. That’s where our annual calculations help. They estimate the cost of government for the average family. Armed with this knowledge, Canadians can then determine if they think they’re getting good value in return.

Some perspective might help.

In most provinces, more than 50 per cent of our tax dollars finance generous pay for government employees. In fact, government employees, on average, receive 10.6 per cent higher wages than comparable private-sector workers doing similar work. And that’s on top of the much more generous non-wage benefits (pension coverage, job security, early retirement) the government sector also enjoys. Of course, we need qualified and well-paid government workers, but is this pay and benefit premium the best use of our tax dollars?

In the case of health care, which consumes around 40 per cent of most provincial budgets and is a fast-growing expense, international comparisons show that, despite high levels of spending, Canadians have comparatively poor access to technology and doctors, and endure longer wait times for surgery. It’s hard to see how we get good value for our money in public health care when measured against other countries that also offer universal access.

Most troubling is when our tax dollars are outright wasted on boondoggles and failed government programs. A recent study documented more than 600 cases where the federal government failed to meet its own objectives over a 25-year period, resulting in up to $197 billion of wasted tax money.

Bottom line—if Canadians are more informed about the true cost of government, they will be better equipped to hold government accountable for how it spends our tax dollars. And that leads to a more robust public debate about the overall tax burden and whether we’re getting our money’s worth.

Charles Lammam is the Director, Fiscal Studies, at the Fraser Institute and Milagros Palacios is the Senior Research Economist at the Fraser Institute. This piece was republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Economy

Commentary by Don Curry in North Bay

Critics are looking at Quebec’s so-called “sweetheart deal” on immigrant investors the wrong way.

Instead of complaining about Quebec other provinces and territories should be demanding equality.

A June 23 article by Peter O’Neil in the Vancouver Sun  noted Quebec struck its deal in 1991, when the sovereignty movement was strong.

Quebec had the bargaining chips, certainly, but what is stopping other regions of Canada that would benefit from an immigrant investor program -- Northern Ontario, the Maritimes and the territories come to mind -- from opening talks with the federal government?

The federal immigrant investor program had its critics, who called it a “cash for citizenship” scheme, and it was cancelled in 2014. There were also reports of fraud. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver didn’t need the program but it would be a huge economic and social impetus for the regions mentioned above, that are starving for increased immigration and economic investment.

Surely smart bureaucrats could modify the Quebec program so that it fits the needs of other regions of the country.

Regional development

In Northern Ontario, the region of the country I’m most familiar with, a program that attracts foreign investors for an $800,000 financial commitment, with a $200,000 down payment, would go a long way toward municipal and regional infrastructure programs.

The Ring of Fire project, long dormant but with billions of dollars’ worth of metals sitting in the ground, would benefit significantly as a joint regional economic development project.

We are talking billions in investment through such a program. Two thousand immigrant investors for Northern Ontario at $800,000 each is an awful lot of money. Even if some left Northern Ontario to live elsewhere and forfeited their $200,000 deposit, it is still an awful of money.

Bureaucrats and politicians are saying they can’t force permanent residents to live in specific regions, because once they have that status they can live anywhere in Canada. But what is stopping them from creating incentives to live in designated areas?

That’s how the prairies were settled.

Housing prices

Insane housing prices in Vancouver are partially blamed on Chinese immigrant investors moving from Quebec.

More to the point, the blame can be laid at the feet of the Vancouver real estate industry and its unscrupulous practices, detailed in a Globe and Mail investigation.

Premier Christy Clark, fed up with 10 years of lack of self-regulation in the industry, has created a government oversight body. 

Northern Ontario, to name one region, is being short-changed in the number of immigrants landing here and, as a result, the immigrant settlement funds allocated. While almost half of the immigrants to Canada land in Ontario, one-tenth of one per cent landed in Northern Ontario in 2011-12.

Northern Ontario has a higher population than New Brunswick.  This statistic is from a 2015 study by Western University professor Dr. Michael Haan and Elena Prokopenko, completed for the Far Northeast Training Board, based in Hearst, Ontario.

Declining populations

While the Greater Toronto Area is bursting at the seams, the northern part of Ontario is experiencing population stagnation or decline. An immigrant investor program would provide a significant boost. Immigrants now in Northern Ontario are secondary migrants from the GTA, mainly, or other parts of Canada.

Immigrant investors would be inclined to stay in the north (North Bay and Sudbury are less than a four-hour drive to Toronto) where opportunities abound, there are good schools and no congestion. A recent phenomenon is immigrant entrepreneurs moving to Northern Ontario to purchase businesses. (I will soon be embarking on a research project to document the movement of immigrant entrepreneurs to nine Northeastern Ontario municipalities.)

There are more than 70 first generation immigrant-owned businesses in North Bay, most of them having moved from the GTA. Once they live here, they stay and raise families. A lasting legacy of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, who is from North Bay, is a four-lane highway all the way to Toronto.

Call it social engineering if you like, but there has been very little done by the federal government and the provinces to entice immigrants to settle where they are needed. Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa continue to dominate the immigration discussion. We are long overdue for change.

Background: Quebec Immigrant Investor Program

Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting ( He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and Timmins & District Multicultural Centre and now serves as a board member. 

Published in Commentary
Saturday, 09 April 2016 16:17

Name Calling in Vancouver

Commentary by Will Tao in Vancouver, British Columbia

The foreign-ownership and housing affordability debate is currently the most reported and talked about socio-political issue in the City of Vancouver.

Truthfully, for those of us who care immensely about this city’s future, it is not an easy conversation. Regardless of partisan politics or ethnic background or even financial wealth, few would disagree that some form of a solution is needed urgently to address the growing concern of working class Vancouver families and professionals.

Browsing through the foreign ownership studies and anecdotal stories over the past year, I cannot help but feel very conflicted on a personal level. I am a young lawyer in Vancouver, earning a decent salary. However, when I subtract my expenses and debts, I too could become someone who will be renting in Vancouver, living paycheck to paycheck with no guarantee of any future ownership prospects.

Yet, I am fortunate. I am painfully aware that many families with young children cannot even afford rent, let alone food or clothing.

The west side

My interpretation of the foreign ownership debate is influenced by my self-identification as a Chinese-Canadian born in Canada. I have lived at home much of my life. My home happens to be on the much-discussed west side of Vancouver.

My parents, both naturalized Canadian citizens, immigrated to Canada from China in the late 80’s, carrying with them non-anglicized names that they never changed. In fact, my legal name is itself non-anglicized (the Chinese name comes first). According to current ‘name-analysis’ study methods, my parents would be classified as foreign owners even though they have been Canadian citizens for over two decades.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]According to current ‘name-analysis’ study methods, my parents would be classified as foreign owners even though they have been Canadian citizens for over two decades.[/quote]

I can also anecdotally report that there are many families like mine all across the city: Asian-Canadian families that have been in this country long enough that the tag of “foreign” should not logically apply. Yet, I have also noticed a trend of more recent arrivals.

However, many of these individuals, too, are legally Canadian. They hold permanent resident cards; many of them have also obtained citizenship, and aside from the length of time spent here, they are as Canadian as you and I. This begs the question, what separates a foreign owner from a Canadian owner? Can we even tell the difference?

Media narrative

I suggest that the current media narrative is incomplete. My story of how we ended up on the west side, living in homes that are now valued at over a million dollars, does not square with the current brouhaha around "wealth and investment". 

As second-generation Canadians or Canadians who arrived in their early years, or, in some cases, in late high school, our families worked long hours, multiple jobs, and moved from basement to basement. My parents, like many other immigrant parents, sacrificed their own material well-being, rarely taking family vacations and working full-time jobs, to be able to afford a house in Vancouver.

Many of our parents successfully started businesses in Canada, often taking risks after periods of under-employment or under-recognition in the mainstream economy. They gave their businesses ethnic-sounding names to honour their immigrant roots or their intended client base. These businesses often focused on export-import, providing language-specific services, including a global trade element.

These businesses, along with immigration to Vancouver, flourished in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Ironically, some of these businesses (restaurants, consultancies, and sole proprietorships) are the very ‘Canadian’ ones newspaper columns and some community commentators are targetting for carrying ethnic names.

"Astronaut families"

Another trend among these families is that several of them (my late father included) had a family member return to China to pursue economic opportunity. On paper, this may sound like an “astronaut family,” a term that has taken on a somewhat derogatory tone for the “over privileged” children and wives that the parent supposedly left behind.

However, for a majority of families that I know, economic opportunity, leadership positions and a salary more in keeping with what they deserved, were beyond reach, leading them to take the life-altering decision to leave Vancouver. Working abroad in global companies that respected their ability to understand both cultures, doubled and tripled their compensation and even more importantly, rewarded them with management positions.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]My parents, like many other immigrant parents, sacrificed their own material well-being, rarely taking family vacations and working full-time jobs, to be able to afford a house in Vancouver.[/quote]

Ironically, my generation (similar to my parents' generation) is now facing similar challenges in the local job market. The Toronto Star recently reported on how having a “non-anglicized name” or “ethnic resume” has led to challenges obtaining employment.

It is no surprise that with these barriers many Canadian-born and -raised graduates and professionals are pursuing career opportunities overseas, earning higher incomes. Many of these individuals are returning to Vancouver when they are financially stable, buying condos and houses, partners and children in tow.

The problem then becomes, who are these so-called “foreign-owners”? In my opinion, it cannot be as simple as searching up non-anglicized names in a real estate registry. Any attempts to levy taxes or penalties must inevitably transcend race, ethnicity, and country of origin to be consistent with fundamental Canadian values and rights.

Will Tao is a Canadian Immigration Lawyer at Larlee Rosenberg, Barristers and Solicitors, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is also a director at New Canadian Media.

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Published in Commentary

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

Canada’s falling loonie has added extra dollars to the pockets of residents who rely on financial assistance from abroad. 

Foreign investors in real estate and local exporters are also enjoying benefits from the dip in our dollar, which is at its lowest level since the spring of 2003, and expected to go lower, as analysts forecast the loonie could lose another 10 cents. 

The loonie dropped just under $0.70 U.S. at the beginning of the year, reaching 69.9 cents on January 12. 

Added cash in hand 

Azra Riffat, a retired officer from Pakistan, lives in Toronto and is enjoying the benefits of the low dollar. 

Riffat immigrated to Canada 10 years ago. Unable to work because of her responsibilities at home, caring for her 80-year-old mother, Riffat receives support from her siblings who transfer money to her account for their mother’s medical and household expenses. 

“My sister is in the UK and brother in the U.S.,” says Riffat. “They cannot physically take care of our mother, so they send in money.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The lower Canadian dollar only benefits wealthier individuals who have resources to transfer [funds] to Canada."[/quote]

Over the past 12 months, the Canadian dollar has lost 15 per cent of its value against the U.S. Because the majority of the funds transferred to Canada are in U.S. dollars, this means up to an additional $45 for every $100 US converted to Canadian currency. 

“Last month when I checked the quote on an exchange rate of selling $100 US to buy Canadian dollars, it was 144.50,” says Riffat. 

Immigrants often come to Canada as families, but men sometimes return to their countries of origin because they are unable to find work. In other cases, men with high-paying positions in other countries move their families to Canada to give their children a more promising future. These are some of the families who are benefiting from the current exchange rate. 

“The lower Canadian dollar only benefits wealthier individuals who have resources to transfer [funds] to Canada, provided that [the funds come from] countries where the local currency is also in high value,” says Mustafa Koc, professor of sociology at Ryerson University in Toronto. 

Similarly, new immigrants who relocated to Canada during the past year have the added advantage of being able to stretch their savings for a longer period, compared to those who settled before, adds Majid Kazmi, a banker and immigrant from the Middle East. 

Good for real estate 

The low currency this year, complemented by low interest rates, creates an optimal situation for immigrants buying homes and foreign investors alike, as their buying power in the Canadian housing market has increased, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, says Wayne Ryan, Managing Broker at Remax-Vancouver. 

“Vancouver’s high-end properties are not flying off the shelf,” says Ryan, but explains that detached homes, which can cost anywhere between $3 and $5 million, are popular among foreign investors. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada is seen as a “safe-haven” for foreign capital and the falling currency helps to further encourage it.[/quote]

Some potential buyers are able to take advantage of liquidating their assets in their countries of origin and investing in the Canadian real estate market. Analysts like Eytan Lasry, who teaches in the business department at Toronto’s York University, suggest that Canada is seen as a “safe-haven” for foreign capital and the falling currency helps to further encourage it. 

Lasry adds that the best thing for both home buyers and investors is the low interest rates – which may sink even lower – as they make debt manageable. 

“It’s a global economy,” he explains. “When money goes low, you attract more, topped with low interest rates makes the debt servicing easy.” 

Exporters tap gains 

Canadian businesses, including those in food and consumer product industries, that export to the U.S. are also enjoying the extra profit because of the lower exchange rate. 

In a 2014 report, Moody’s Investors Service stated that the Canadian dollar depreciation is a positive for many Canadian industries, such as pulp and wood products. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Their costs are in Canadian dollars and their revenues are coming from abroad in currencies that are better off.”[/quote]

Also, small businesses that export services, like catering and trucking to the U.S. and Mexico, tend to gain from the falling loonie. 

“Their costs are in Canadian dollars and their revenues are coming from abroad in currencies that are better off,” explains Kazmi. 

Fuzail Ata Pirzada, who migrated from the UK 16 years ago, runs a catering business in Mississauga. He provides service to Asian-themed functions and festivals in the U.S. too, close to the border. 

“I am paid in U.S. dollars, but the cost of the vegetables and meat has also increased in Canada, which offsets my profits,” he says. He adds that during winter, business slows down, but he is hoping to reap the benefit of the low dollar when spring arrives, and the wedding season begins. 

“It’s a good time to invest in the Canadian export industry, with a controlled cost of production on manufacturing and producing goods, and enjoy the pricing advantage later,” Kazmi suggests. 

As the Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz, has said repeatedly, the loonie is a casualty of the falling price of oil. He says it could take three years for Canada to work through the economic issues that are currently driving its dollar down.

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Published in Economy

by Leah Bjornson (@leahjuneb) in Vancouver, British Columbia

New promises by the governing federal Conservatives to investigate the relationship between rising housing prices and foreign investment in Vancouver may resonate with local voters this fall, but experts aren’t convinced that this issue is as dire as it is being made out to be.

Set against a backdrop of downtown skyscrapers and portside businesses, Stephen Harper addressed a North Vancouver crowd earlier this month, pledging to collect data on foreign home ownership.

“There are real concerns that foreign, non-resident real estate speculation is the reason some Canadian families find house prices beyond their budgets,’’ Harper said.

“If such foreign non-resident buyers are artificially driving up the cost of real estate, and Canadian families are shut out of the market, that is a matter we can and should do something about.’’

However, for the Mayor of the city in which Harper made his announcement, this is a non-issue.

“I’m not convinced that [foreign ownership makes up] a large percentage,” said North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto. “Almost everyone I talk to – people I meet, local homeowners who are buying and selling homes – foreign ownership is not a big component of the people I’m dealing with.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It kind of surprises me that a government that got rid of the long-form census would now be interested in finding out who’s owning property.”[/quote]

Instead, he feels that this announcement is rooted in political motivations and strategic timing. “It’s a political issue. It’s all politics. It’s got nothing to do with good policy,” Mussatto stated.

Given the upcoming federal elections this fall, speculation is that this announcement is timed to win votes with a local community that has been dealing with this ongoing issue for years.

“If [Stephen Harper] felt that way, why didn’t he do it (collect this data)? He’s been in power for eight years, why didn’t he do it?” Mussatto posited. “It kind of surprises me that a government that got rid of the long-form census would now be interested in finding out who’s owning property.”

Where the province stands

Contrary to Harper’s concerns that non-resident buyers might be driving up housing prices, the provincial government has a history of actively encouraging foreign investors to buy in British Columbia.

Just this year, Premier Christy Clark cautioned against limiting foreign investment in the province, raising concerns that restrictions in B.C. “could backfire.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We shouldn’t have guesses. We shouldn’t have intuition.”[/quote]

Clark cited Ministry of Finance data, which suggested that there is little evidence of wealthy or foreign investors driving housing unaffordability in the city.

“There is a perception that foreign investors and speculators are driving an affordability crisis in residential real estate – particularly in Greater Vancouver. The data we have does not support this perception,” the analysis said.

This view mirrors Mussato’s understanding of the amount of foreign investment in the city.

While he admits that his experience is mainly limited to the North Shore, Mussatto stressed the need for concrete information before any policy decisions are made that might limit investment.

“We shouldn’t have guesses. We shouldn’t have intuition,” he said.

Many residents ‘seriously considering leaving’

Nevertheless, the intuition of many Vancouverites is that foreign ownership is indeed a large and growing problem in the city.

Earlier this year, the Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey among Metro Vancouver adults to investigate the effects, causes and possible solutions to housing problems in the city.

It found that a majority of Metro Vancouver adults surveyed felt that foreign buyers and wealthy investors were to blame for driving up the price of homes in the region.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If you cannot go and get into a housing market, then it doesn’t make you necessarily want to stay here.”[/quote]

What’s more, the poll found that only 21 per cent of residents were happy about their current housing situation, while 45 per cent said that they were uncomfortable or miserable.

Of the 18 per cent who described themselves as miserable, 85 per cent said they are “seriously considering leaving” the region because of its high housing prices.

These frustrations reached a climax earlier this year, when more than 17,000 people signed a petition urging the province to restrict overseas investment in Vancouver real estate.

Penny Gurstein, a professor and Director of the School of Community and Regional Planning at University of British Columbia, has a theory about these frustrations.

“If you cannot go and get into a housing market, then it doesn’t make you necessarily want to stay here,” she said.

Gurstein, who is currently investigating strategies for affordable homeownership and rental housing both internationally and in Canada, said that anecdotal evidence suggests that foreign ownership is an issue in the city.

“But until we actually have measured data on this,” she explained, “we’re not going to be able to understand the issue.”

Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post


Published in Economy
Thursday, 03 July 2014 04:00

History repeating itself in Vancouver

by Kevin Chong (@kevinchong1975) in Vancouver

Within the animal kingdom, there are few images more compellingly grotesque than the Rat King. A cluster of vermin that has been fused together through blood, dirt, and excrement, the Rat King is a harbinger of disease and an omen of pestilence.

While the Vancouver School Board’s new policy with regards to students who identify as transgender and non-gender conforming started out as a set of guidelines to ameliorate the development of children who don’t see themselves fitting into the boy-girl paradigm, it’s since the knotted together the city’s ugliest problems: transphobia, anti-Chinese racism, the retrograde values of some immigrant communities, and real estate-related avarice. The controversy has formed the Rat King of Vancouver’s social ills.

Let’s start at the top: in the spring, the Vancouver School Board set out to update its policy to support LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) students, which was established in 2004. The proposed update allows students to be called by a name of their self-identified gender (and to be referred to by the pronoun of their choice). Students will also have access to gender-neutral, handicap-accessible washrooms. On a case-by-case basis, they will be allowed to play on the sports team and use the washrooms of the gender they associate themselves with. Advocates of this policy argue that the elevated risk of suicide and self-harm among trans youth is reason enough to enhance their support.

In May, the policy was met with concerted opposition from a group led by Cheryl Chang, the president of Lord Byng Secondary’s Parents Action Committee (PAC). Chang argued that the policy required input from medical professionals. She also took issue with the policy that allows students, especially those in primary-school age, to confide with their teachers without the knowledge or consent of their parents. At a widely attended and contentious PAC meeting, Byng parents voted for Chang to withdraw her letter and write a letter of apology to the VSB.

Mobilizing opposition

The debate didn’t stop there; it changed focus and reeled in other populations and biases. Earlier in June, two school trustees, Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, organized a press conference at a Chinese restaurant, protesting the policy. The city’s ethnic Chinese population was not properly informed about the policy change and thus unable to mobilize and voice their opposition.

Furthermore, Denike suggested that, based on conversations from unnamed realtors, the city’s international enrollments in Vancouver schools and property values might decline as a result of the decision. This suggestion is especially explosive given the fact that links between the city’s spiking real-estate prices and Chinese immigration have been deemed racist. Only when the beliefs of some Chinese are threatened, the spectre of property values is invoked.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Only when the beliefs of some Chinese are threatened, the spectre of property values is invoked.[/quote]

For Vancouver Chinese, Denike and Woo’s press conference raised a troubling question: Is the Chinese population transphobic or inherently conservative on social issues?

The problem with this question is that among the 400,000 people of Chinese ancestry are fourth-generation Chinese-Canadians, Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong immigrants who arrived in the 1990s, and more recent arrivals from Taiwan and Mainland China.

Like any diverse population, some Chinese Vancouverites support the VSB policy, some oppose it. To counteract media-generated perceptions, the Georgia Straight even ran an article listing prominent Asian Vancouverites who are gay and trans-friendly (and noted that Chang, while using the Asian surname of her husband, is of European descent). Saying that there is Chinese opposition to LGBTQ+ policy is about as inaccurate and over-generalizing as a newspaper headline that reads, “Ethnic Anglo-Saxon groups are in favour of the Vancouver School Board's new policy on transgender students.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Like any diverse population, some Chinese Vancouverites support the VSB policy, some oppose it.[/quote]

In the past decade, the clashes between Vancouver’s Chinese population (again, some parts of it) and non-Chinese have shown how cultural insensitivity and political incorrectness can flow in two directions.

In 2011, a group of Vancouver condo owners complained when a hospice was planned near their newly built development at the University of British Columbia. They claimed that a culturally imbued fear of ghosts made the hospice’s location undesirable.

Their fears were laughed off as the superstitions of a privileged class of foreigners. As a Hong Kong-born Chinese raised in Canada, I remember laughing myself, but my own mother presents these same concerns when I recently considered moving into the area near Mountain View Cemetery. And if, say, a non-Chinese couple refused to live in a house once they learned an axe-murder had been committed in it—another irrational, death-related fear—would they, too, be excoriated?

Repeating recent history

In recent years, picketers have protested shark-fin soup at Vancouver restaurants. While these campaigners’ environmental concerns are valid, their rhetoric is often inflammatory and vilifying. Their calls for outright bans, instead of reductions or substitutions, show their lack of appreciation for the central place that the dish has in Chinese banquet meals. It’s much easier to attack the odd delicacy of a minority group than it would be to protest a far more environmentally questionable food products like beef (a great producer of carbon) outside of an Earl’s Restaurant.

On the other side, ethnic Chinese who campaign against the customary dish are slurred as “bananas” (i.e. yellow on the outside, white on the inside).

In the case of VSB policy, the basis for Chinese opposition to the policy stems from the Evangelical Christian beliefs that some Chinese adhere to and the social norms of some new immigrants that originated from their less socially progressive homeland. (According to one academic, Dr. Justin Tse, the trans policy is more about parental rights than transphobia among the Chinese community.) Cultural mistranslation among newer Chinese-Canadians might also amplify the extent of the changes proposed by the school board.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Cultural mistranslation among newer Chinese-Canadians might also amplify the extent of the changes proposed by the school board.[/quote]

Greater outreach among Chinese could balance the more conservative voices. One group seeking to this, the newly established Hua Foundation, founded by a group of 20-something Chinese-Canadians, seeks to make progressive politics a more culturally and ethnically inclusive place. Instead of shaming Chinese couples who serve shark fin soup at their wedding banquets, they’ve started a positive campaign, “Happy Hearts Love Sharks,” that offers a chance at a free honeymoon to couples who find alternatives on their menus.

On June 16th, the VSB voted seven to two in favour of implementing the new policy for the fall. (No students were affected because of the current labour dispute between the B.C. Teacher’s Union and the Ministry of Education that has given kids an early summer break.) School board Patti Bachus said she was proud to be on “the right side of history.”

Socially progressive people might argue this side of history includes those Canadians who supported the rights of Chinese-Canadians to vote in 1947 — a year that’s faraway but within my own parents’ lifetimes. Vancouver, in the 1940s, was an especially racist place. City by-laws, for instance, forbade Chinese restaurateurs from hiring white female staff. We've changed -- but have we changed enough? In retrospect, 1947 feels too late for Chinese-Canadians to be given the vote. Decades in the future, 2014 might feel like too far in time for trans youth to be afforded protection.

As history writes itself again, this Rat King still has life.

Kevin Chong is the author of five books, including Northern Dancer: The Legendary Horse that Inspired a Nation, and teaches at the University of British Columbia.

Related Reading: Vancouver Housing Markets Cannot Fully Escape The Chinese Dragon

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Published in Commentary

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