This is the next installment in the blog series by our summer intern Isabelle about the development of an immigration, migration and refugees outreach kit. Last week she shared the process of developing a framework of questions to guide her research. 


These past few weeks, I have been researching, reading, searching, listening, learning and thinking about stories.

We have decided to tell nine stories, most of them based on real individuals and families. I will describe the first six here, as the last three deal with more recent events that involve living people. We are still discussing how to best tell these stories truthfully and respectfully, keeping in mind the impact they will have on persons living today.

Here are summaries of the first six stories:

The Lester Family & Black Canadians: This is the story of Black immigrants invited to Canada from California in 1858 by Sir James Douglas, himself a mixed-race Canadian. The story follows Peter and Nancy Lester and their four children as they move from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Victoria and start new lives in B.C. They encounter systemic and interpersonal racism but find success and become highly respected members of the community.

The Families of Kanaka Ranch & Kānaka Maoli: This is the story of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawai’ian) people who moved to the Pacific Northwest to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company, started families, often with local Indigenous women, and decided to stay. The story focuses on the families of Kanaka descent who lived in the Kanaka Ranch neighbourhood in what is now Stanley Park.

Kojima Hidemia & the 1907 Anti-Asian Riot: This story focuses on Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century by following the journey of Kojima, a 16-year-old boy who arrived in Vancouver right after the infamous 1907 Anti-Asian Riot that destroyed much of Japantown.

Chong Do Dang & the Chinese Exclusion Act: The history of Chinese immigration to BC is long and complex, so this story will focus on one particular event: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 as seen from the perspective of Chong Do Dang, a boy who immigrated to Canada at the age of ten in late 1921.

Ajaib Sidhoo & Sikh Immigrants in the 1930s: The story of Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo is based on information from the South Asian Stories project. Ajaib was born in Punjab in 1923, and in 1927, his dad came to Vancouver Island. Jab immigrated to B.C. in 1930 to join his father and grew up in a multi-ethnic working-class neighbourhood on Vancouver Island.

Zosia Bluman & Jewish Refugees: This story will follow Zosia Bluman and her husband Natek, two Jewish refugees who escaped the Holocaust by fleeing from Warsaw to Lithuania, from Lithuania to Japan and finally from Japan to Vancouver. Their story is told in the book I Have My Mother’s Eyes, written by Zosia’s daughter and published by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. The Blumans’s journey was possible only because of the bravery of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania, who defied orders and issued thousands of visas to refugees.

If you have any suggestions on how we can best tell these stories, what artifacts (images, texts, objects) we should include in the outreach kit, please let us know!

The image used for this post is a photo of the Hikawa Maru, a ship that transported Jewish refugees to Vancouver.