Museum of Vancouver showcases the history of immigration in the city

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A breakdown of the diversity in south Vancouver. Photo: blocktalk.ca
A breakdown of the diversity in south Vancouver. Photo: blocktalk.ca

A public dialogue on the ways immigration has shaped Vancouver will be held this Wednesday at the Museum of Vancouver.

The dialogue expands upon a retrospective installation by the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC) that uses personal narratives along with facts to document the stories of immigrants to Vancouver.

“What it mainly does is present an evolution of those immigrants and some services and puts it into context of Vancouver, because this isn’t just an exhibition about immigration in Canada or anywhere, really. It’s about how it specifically has shaped Vancouver,” said Museum of Vancouver curator of engagement & dialogue Hanna Cho.

Not only a museum exhibit, but a vehicle for discussion

The free public dialogue is called “Evolving Geographies of Immigration in Vancouver: History and Horizons”.  It takes place on Nov. 28 at 6:30pm at the Museum of Vancouver. A panel of speakers will lead the dialogue, including city councillor Geoff Meggs, ISSofBC’s division manager of settlement services Kathy Sherrell, and architect Gregory Henriquez. Alden Habacon, a diversity and inclusion specialist, will moderate the following Q & A.

“I think it’s really well rounded. It’s not just all academic, or all service workers, etc, it’s people who have multiple perspectives,” said Cho. “We essentially went through some of the key themes covered in the studio installation … we wanted to use the opportunities of the Nov. 28 event to kind of delve into some of those themes in a little more detail based on research that has been undertaken by the ISSofBC.”

Immigration within the city

Cho explained that many historical events over the world affected Vancouver’s immigrant population. Vancouver is seen as the “Pacific gateway” because it’s the closest major city to the Pacific Rim. For example, in the 1980s, many immigrants arrived from Hong Kong when it was going to be taken under power by China.

“Established communities tend to attract people from the same established communities,” said Cho.

Vancouver has also attracted a high number of immigrants from the Philippines, India, and mainland China. South Vancouver in particular has a high number of South Asian immigrants. According to the website BlockTalk.ca, 64.7 per cent of South Vancouver residents are immigrants. 21 per cent are from India, 11.3 per cent are from China and 5.9 per cent are from Hong Kong.

“Immigrants tend to want to be in communities where there is a good concentration of people from their own culture, and when they get more comfortable they start to venture out of those communities,” said ISSofBC division manager of career services Lily Lim.

More information about the installation

The installation at the Museum of Vancouver presents information through infographics, timelines, and audio/visual vignettes. The ISSofBC tracked down some people who immigrated to Canada in the 1970s and interviewed them in present day.

“It’s really interesting to see this history enshrined in the museum because it’s part of our city’s history, but also to hear some of the narratives from ‘regular people’ who have ‘made it’ or the unexpected turns that, a lot of people who immigrate, their lives take,” said Cho.

Reported by Carly Rhianna Smith

In this podcast, Hanna Cho of the Museum of Vancouver and Lily Lim of ISSofBC talk about the installation and immigration.

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