"I was born in Victoria, B.C., the traditional and ancestral lands of the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples. I have grown up and spent most of my life in Vancouver, B.C., the traditional and ancestral lands of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh Nations. Vancouver is the city and Canada the country that I eventually will be buried in – it is home for me now and forever.
I am the second-generation product of parents who were both medical doctors in Shanghai, China. As first-generation immigrants, my parents experienced the hardship of settling in a new country, learning a new language, and having to restart their careers from scratch. They worked hard, often multiple low-paying jobs, with the dream that one day their children would be on a level-playing field and could pursue professional occupations that were beyond their own financial and temporal means. Throughout this process, they have never shared with me a single story of the overt and institutionalized racism they must have experienced. Of the hardships they faced, they spoke very little, internalizing the migrant struggles that I am privileged to be able to speak to very publicly today. They instilled hard work and the importance of living a value-driven life to me and my sister. To use a hockey lingo, ‘they never took a shift off.’ Unfortunately, my father skated his final shift just over three years ago.
Being Canadian to me is not about anything tangible such as sport of hockey or even the Charter. For me, it is the process of getting there – our intangible stories and experiences. Canada is an imperfect conglomeration of Indigenous communities and migrants old and new who have all gotten off the train, plane, boat, or by foot at different stops along the way. Being Canadian is trying to build a central station that allows all of us to board this shared train with the understanding of underlying shared values of the rights and responsibilities that being a passenger entails. I dream that one day the conductor will be an Indigenous woman and that my future daughter will train under her.
In the past year I have done some serious reflecting about my own role in Canada. I play a deeply contradictory role as an individual seeking to decolonize my practices and perspectives and an immigration and refugee lawyer re-enforcing them. I have a spouse who is herself an immigrant and watching her go through the same cycle as my parents and abandon everything for our family fuels my advocacy. I have a role to play with what limited power I do have to ensuring migrant voices and BiPOC representation are at the table to respond to racism, hate, and discrimination that are still too engrained in our country’s collective consciousness, history, and institutions.
Canada can be both outwardly strong and inwardly vulnerable – something that if we see is in all of us can inform our mosaic-building. At the end of the day, this is #EveryonesCanada" — Vancouver/ Coast Salish Territories