Diversity – William Ging Wee Dere
To mark the occasion of his acceptance of the 2020 Blue Metropolis/Conseil des arts de Montréal Diversity Prize for his book Being Chinese in Canada: The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging (Douglas & McIntyre), William Ging Wee Dere shares a few thoughts on the evolving stakes of diversity. A Chinese-Canadian community activist and writer, Dere reflects on the importance of the ongoing fight against systemic racism, with a view toward future steps for BIPOC communities and allies in Quebec and Canada.
Tune in to the pre-recorded ceremony Thursday, November 12, 7 PM:
As an immigrant settler, I acknowledge that we are on unceded Indigenous lands of the traditional territory of both the Kanien’kehá:ka, and the Anishinabeg peoples.
I am honoured to receive the 2020 Blue Metropolis/Conseil des arts de Montréal Diversity Prize. I wish to thank Blue Metropolis and the Conseil des arts as well as the judges for choosing my book, Being Chinese in Canada – The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging, for this award. This recognition is not only for myself but also a recognition of the contributions made by the Chinese community in Montréal over the past 150 years. In 2005, my late mother, Yee Dong Sing, was presented with a Certificate of Commemoration by mayor Gérald Tremblay for her “sacrifices and contributions … that shaped the social, economic and cultural development” of Montréal.
In the public discourse today, we are striving for diversity. Diversity means living with people who are different from us, to respect and to try to understand our neighbours. It means to recognize diverse peoples other than the dominant culture as an integral and equal part of society. It means inclusion into the power structures and the decision-making processes. It means a true recognition of the reality of Canada.
However, diversity is only the first step in the fight against racism. Indigenous people have been resisting racism and genocide since the first days of colonial settlement in Canada and Quebec. Black people have been resisting racism and enslavement for 400 years since they were torn from the African continent. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) communities are claiming their identity and place of belonging in Canada and Quebec. More and more literature and art are coming out of these communities. This literature is part of the Canadian and Quebec fabric that can no longer be excluded by the mainstream.
The Blue Met and the Conseil des arts de Montréal are doing their share to promote diversity. Blue Met has featured literature and discussions important to BIPOC communities in the last few years. I urge you to do more to promote the fight against racism with the recognition that systemic racism does exist in Quebec and to impress upon the provincial leaders that acknowledgement of the problem of systemic racism is the first step to tackling racial discrimination in Quebec.
William Ging Wee Dere has been an activist over his lifetime fighting for equality and justice, including the 22-year movement to redress the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. He has published in numerous Canadian magazines and journals, including Ricepaper Magazine, Toronto.com and CBC.ca. He co-directed the documentary Être Chinois au Québec (2013) and co-directed and wrote Moving the Mountain (1993) and Gens du Pays: The Chinese of Québec (1993). His works reflect the history, life and struggles of the Chinese Canadian community in Canada and Québec.
William’s latest work is the 2019 non-fiction book published by Douglas & McIntyre, Being Chinese in Canada, The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging, which won the 2020 Blue Met/Conseil des arts de Montréal Diversity Prize.