provoking thoughts about the presence of our past

Monday, November 6, 2017

Development Permit for 105 Keefer voted down

In a historic decision for Vancouver and its historic Chinatown, the City of Vancouver's Development Permit Board voted against the proposed development at 105 Keefer. Director of Planning Gil Kelley cast the deciding vote. It was a courageous decision, going against the recommendations of his own staff. Community organizers and advocates from across the city cheered the decision, and perhaps it marks a turning point in Vancouver's history, coming on the heels of a historical apology for the City of Vancouver's history of anti-Chinese legislation and discriminatory practices.
(you can follow the Development Permit Board hearings and decision at:

For those who are unclear on what led to this decision, and what was at stake, I will share copies of two letters written to the Development Permit Board, and in particular to the Director of Planning Gil Kelley, that place the decision within a historical context, and perhaps illuminate why this was the right decision.

This first letter is from Kelly Kwong, President of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, Pacific Unit No. 280, representing Chinese Canadian veterans.

The second letter, also generously shared with me, is from Col. Howe Lee, who along with his colleagues at the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society and Pacific Unit 280 helped build the Memorial to Chinese Canadian Veterans and Chinese Canadian Railroad Workers that the 105 Keefer development proposal would have overshadowed. For anyone who thinks that this divisive issue was just about development politics, I hope that reading these two letters helps make clear that 105 Keefer created such passion, especially among youth, because of the larger issues of history, heritage, and the identity of the City of Vancouver that its approval would have meant.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The City Council Approves Recommendations for Apology

Following a Council motion almost two years ago to create an Advisory Council to make recommendations regarding an apology from the City of Vancouver for its history of anti-Chinese legislation and discriminatory practices, Council adopted on October 31, 2017, the recommendations made by the Historical Discrimination Against Chinese Peoples Advisory Council.

The Presentation made to Council and to community stakeholders such as the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver can be found online at:

The Report, compiled by city planner Baldwin Wong, contains historical research on the history of racially discriminatory bylaws as well as discriminatory practices. It is well worth reading and can be found at:

I had a chance to talk about the apology, and the role of the Advisory Council (upon which I had the privilege to serve as a volunteer), with Rick Cluff at the Early Edition on CBC Radio.

John Mackie of the Vancouver Sun also wrote a good article about one of the recommendations made for the City of Vancouver to pursue UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for Vancouver's Chinatown to help recognize its value as a heritage site within a global context, joining designation as a historical heritage site at the municipal, provincial, and federal level already: