As a Chinese Canadian, I’m joining hands with Indigenous communities to speak up about this nation’s history of violent oppression

I will not be celebrating Canada Day. As a Chinese-Canadian who has seen my community suffer throughout history in Canada and who stands in solidarity with other racialized Canadians, Canada Day is a day of mourning for me. This year alone, we have witnessed police brutality against Black people, a Muslim family slain in a terrorist attack and Indigenous residential school graves being recovered after decades. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have also been targeted by a surge in anti-Asian racism against East Asian, South East Asian and South Asian people. Members of our community have been killed by hit-and-runs, are coughed and spat on, had garbage thrown at them, and their businesses vandalized. We have marched across the country to demand an end to hatred after eight people, including six Asian American sex workers, were murdered in Atlanta last March. These communities have all suffered immensely, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, just this year alone. The need to have empathy and solidarity with fellow racialized Canadians is particularly important right now.I am writing to you, fellow members of the Chinese Canadian community and beyond, to ask you to join in efforts to use this Canada Day as a time of learning.Canada as we know it today would not be able to exist without our ancestors’ sacrifices. Many early members of our community came in the 19th century on false promises of a prosperous better life in gam saan, or gold mountain, far from the dire conditions of China at the time. Many of us died during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, an infrastructure that provided an important base for building modern Canada, while being paid exploitative wages. Those who survived were not able to find jobs, bring their families to Canada, and live a life free from racist exclusion. During the construction of the railway, Chinese-Canadians received aid from nearby First Nations. They nursed injured workers back to health, helped us fight off white bullies and flourished into families. The Xaxli'p First Nations erected a fence around an unmarked piece of land near Lillooet in B.C., to protect the last resting place of Chinese labourers who stayed after the completion of the railway to work on nearby tomato farms.Canada Day, 1923, is also a date many of our elders never forgot. After being victims of a heavy head tax upon their entry to Canada, the Canadian government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 on July 1 to completely ban Chinese immigration. That day, dreams of families reunited to start a new life together were shattered. For over two decades, these men were resigned to huddling together in Chinatowns across the country as each other’s only family. For this reason, many of our elders have referred to July 1 as “Humiliation Day” and refuse to participate in celebrations.During that same period, the Canadian government was kidnapping Indigenous children from their families. Black Canadians were barred from getting an education. The federal government also attempted to pass a ban on Black immigration to Canada in 1911, similar to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. And since the 1960s, Chinatowns across Canada have been progressively razed and gentrified.It is clear that all of us have suffered at the hands of the Canadian state, and as Chinese Canadians, I know that our relationships with other racialized communities in Canada have not always been smooth. I am aware that many of us are recent migrants who worked extremely hard to stay precariously afloat in Canada, and are wary of rocking the boat. I also know that many of our elders struggle with English and French, a barrier that makes them disconnected from many realities around them. But we cannot afford to be silent anymore.It has been a dark year for all of us. Many of us have lost loved ones, livelihoods, and our lives take a turn for the worst. Right now is the time for us to take a stand and to refuse to be the quiet model minorities we were taught to be to survive. More than ever, we need to acknowledge that the state of Canada is built on violent oppression. By refusing to celebrate Canada Day, we are sending a clear message that we ask this country to reckon with its bleak history and the blood on which it stands.Instead of turning against each other, let’s turn toward each other. I ask our young people to connect with our elders, and our elders to actively listen to our youth about these important issues. I ask the privileged amongst us to fight for those of us for whom it is too risky to be loud.I also encourage all of us to be in solidarity with fellow racialized Canadians to take a stand against our shared history of oppression by refusing to celebrate Canada Day — a day of grief for all of us. It is only by standing united that we can heal and build a more just future. Diamond Yao is a writer and journalist. Follow her @graceofyul.

As a Chinese Canadian, I’m joining hands with Indigenous communities to speak up about this nation’s history of violent oppression

I will not be celebrating Canada Day. As a Chinese-Canadian who has seen my community suffer throughout history in Canada and who stands in solidarity with other racialized Canadians, Canada Day is a day of mourning for me.

This year alone, we have witnessed police brutality against Black people, a Muslim family slain in a terrorist attack and Indigenous residential school graves being recovered after decades. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have also been targeted by a surge in anti-Asian racism against East Asian, South East Asian and South Asian people. Members of our community have been killed by hit-and-runs, are coughed and spat on, had garbage thrown at them, and their businesses vandalized. We have marched across the country to demand an end to hatred after eight people, including six Asian American sex workers, were murdered in Atlanta last March. These communities have all suffered immensely, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, just this year alone. The need to have empathy and solidarity with fellow racialized Canadians is particularly important right now.

I am writing to you, fellow members of the Chinese Canadian community and beyond, to ask you to join in efforts to use this Canada Day as a time of learning.

Canada as we know it today would not be able to exist without our ancestors’ sacrifices. Many early members of our community came in the 19th century on false promises of a prosperous better life in gam saan, or gold mountain, far from the dire conditions of China at the time. Many of us died during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, an infrastructure that provided an important base for building modern Canada, while being paid exploitative wages. Those who survived were not able to find jobs, bring their families to Canada, and live a life free from racist exclusion.

During the construction of the railway, Chinese-Canadians received aid from nearby First Nations. They nursed injured workers back to health, helped us fight off white bullies and flourished into families. The Xaxli'p First Nations erected a fence around an unmarked piece of land near Lillooet in B.C., to protect the last resting place of Chinese labourers who stayed after the completion of the railway to work on nearby tomato farms.

Canada Day, 1923, is also a date many of our elders never forgot. After being victims of a heavy head tax upon their entry to Canada, the Canadian government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 on July 1 to completely ban Chinese immigration. That day, dreams of families reunited to start a new life together were shattered. For over two decades, these men were resigned to huddling together in Chinatowns across the country as each other’s only family. For this reason, many of our elders have referred to July 1 as “Humiliation Day” and refuse to participate in celebrations.

During that same period, the Canadian government was kidnapping Indigenous children from their families. Black Canadians were barred from getting an education. The federal government also attempted to pass a ban on Black immigration to Canada in 1911, similar to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. And since the 1960s, Chinatowns across Canada have been progressively razed and gentrified.

It is clear that all of us have suffered at the hands of the Canadian state, and as Chinese Canadians, I know that our relationships with other racialized communities in Canada have not always been smooth. I am aware that many of us are recent migrants who worked extremely hard to stay precariously afloat in Canada, and are wary of rocking the boat. I also know that many of our elders struggle with English and French, a barrier that makes them disconnected from many realities around them. But we cannot afford to be silent anymore.

It has been a dark year for all of us. Many of us have lost loved ones, livelihoods, and our lives take a turn for the worst. Right now is the time for us to take a stand and to refuse to be the quiet model minorities we were taught to be to survive. More than ever, we need to acknowledge that the state of Canada is built on violent oppression. By refusing to celebrate Canada Day, we are sending a clear message that we ask this country to reckon with its bleak history and the blood on which it stands.

Instead of turning against each other, let’s turn toward each other. I ask our young people to connect with our elders, and our elders to actively listen to our youth about these important issues. I ask the privileged amongst us to fight for those of us for whom it is too risky to be loud.

I also encourage all of us to be in solidarity with fellow racialized Canadians to take a stand against our shared history of oppression by refusing to celebrate Canada Day — a day of grief for all of us. It is only by standing united that we can heal and build a more just future.

Diamond Yao is a writer and journalist. Follow her @graceofyul.