Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting charts racism and resistance in the history of the province


Three of the seven authors are either current or former educators at UVic

Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting is a new book that works to highlight the experiences and resistances of BIPOC communities in British Columbia, and has already sparked action among the B.C. Teachers Federation.  

It is an 80-page multimedia resource released on Feb. 25, 2021 under the auspices of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in collaboration with a UVic-based research project titled “Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity, and the Transpacific.” (ACVI) The resource includes the work of seven authors, three of whom have connections to the University of Victoria.  

The Martlet spoke with John Price, the project director of ACVI and one of the authors of Challenging Racist “British Columbia,” about the new publication. According to Price, the book is the last piece of the ACVI project, which began in 2015. The basis for the book was a small booklet released in 2017 titled 150 years and Counting: Fighting for Justice on the Coast.

The book does not focus on one group of people, but rather covers multiple topics such as Indigenous genocide, the 1871 Franchise Act in B.C., and Japanese internment camps. These topics were discussed and decided upon during the planning stages.

“We began a process of discussing what we’d like to see different in this new edition that was addressing the question of anti-racism in British Columbia, and the history of Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities,” Price said.

Price and Christine O’Bonsawin, the director of the Indigenous Studies Program at UVic, are both involved in the ACVI project, so the first step was bringing in the five other authors. After this, Price says they reviewed the booklet released previously by the project and decided what should be included.

Not only did the writing process go on for a long time, but the design process itself took months.

“[The writing process] was a fairly lengthy one. It took months, and then the process of design and using the materials, using the text and matching it with the graphic design was also a long process. I think we had 14 versions of the design product,” Price said. “So, it was a long and involved process with everyone contributing from their own perspectives.”

The collaborative process was beneficial to truly understand the significance of the experiences of all the different groups discussed in the book, but, according to Price, Indigenous history and resistance to colonialism was at the centre of planning for the book.

Though the ACVI project has been ongoing for years, the authors of Challenging Racist “British Columbia” were especially inspired by the events of 2020. Price cited three main events in 2020 that inspired the authors: the struggle undergone by the Wet’suwet’en people in their fight against Coastal GasLink, the spike in anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“So, all of those things just really pushed things forward. I think inspired us to really work to finish this at the time we did, to continue working on it, and intensify our work so that we could get it out as soon as possible,” Price said.

The book has been out since the end of February, and so far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Price also told the Martlet that the Anti-Oppression Educators Collective (AOEC) will be adapting the book for broader educational use. The AOEC is a provincial specialist association within the B.C. Teachers Federation. They will be developing teaching resources based on the book and creating a more advanced digital edition of the book itself.

Price says that not only are the authors happy with the reception the book has received locally but also the reach it has received, with promotion currently underway across not only B.C. but other regions of Canada as well.

“There’s been a really fabulous response and it’s being promoted across Canada in various racialized communities and otherwise […] We’re overwhelmed and really pleased by the reception,” Price said.