Overt racism an issue in B.C.’s Okanagan
CTV British Columbia
Published Saturday, October 20, 2012 1:28PM PDT
In B.C.’s Okanagan region, where there are significantly fewer visible minorities compared to Metro Vancouver, ethnic discrimination can be shockingly overt.
John Oh moved to the area as a little kid. After growing up a visible minority in a part of the province that is about 94 per cent white, he decided to write his master’s thesis on the subject.
In his survey, half of the minorities agreed with the statement,” I do not feel welcome in my community.”
"There's definitely a little bit of a different culture in the valley as opposed to a bigger city like Calgary or Vancouver,” Oh said.
The latest figures from Statistics Canada show about 25 per cent of British Columbians are visible minorities. In Metro Vancouver the number is 42 per cent, while in Kelowna it is six per cent.
Yvonnie Yuson, a Pilipino immigrant living in Vernon, says during her 13 years in the province she’s been called names and bullied.
“They still talk like, tell us like, ‘Oh Asian people you should go back where you belong,’” she said.
A Vernon man named Jim Encarnacion says he’s been called the N-word on the street.
"It doesn't bother me at all. I just figure that person has a real problem in their life,” he said.
Carol Wutzke of Vernon Immigration Services says immigrants are regularly rejected for housing because of their accent over the phone.
“And if they did an interview and didn't have so much of an accent, when they came face to face they were not rented,” she said.
Korean immigrant Jin Park relates to the feeling of not fitting in. After several years of living in Kelowna, the active volunteer has not yet made a close friend who is white. For this she partly blames herself.
"We know we are different and also we know we are fewer and we feel overwhelmed by all the people who don't look like us,” she said.
Oh says it is inexperience and ignorance of other people’s cultures that leads to intolerance, but believes there is hope.
"I'm optimistic that this place is changing,” he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Kent Molgat