51% of Vancouverites are Visible Minorities: So What?

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51% of Vancouver citizens are visible minorities. When are we going to start factoring that into how our city operates from the top down?

Yesterday, at the Coalition of Progressive Electors‘ AGM, members elected 12 people to their board. 2/3 of them happen to not be white men; half are women. This is a good step. It will also give COPE a distinct advantage on the ground leading into the 2011 municipal elections.

Fatima Jaffer, the guest speaker at COPE’s AGM yesterday at the Japanese Hall, brought us the gift of the 51% statistic. As a member of the civic LGBTQ Advisory Committee, she was thought-provoking. I found her comments about reframing our understanding of culture and community development in Vancouver challenge us to no longer except artificial boundaries between groups.

It appears to me that we must build community by spanning “boundaries” and comfort zones. This requires that we acknowledge who other people happen to be, and ensure they have the power to speak and act. And while civic participation is really a positive-sum dialogue, for as long as it appears to be zero-sum in some people’s perspective, this means that groups with disproportionate power need to give some of it up…or at least be a bit more quiet to give others some air time.

I have already written about StatsCan estimates that in the next decade white people will no longer make up the majority of Canadians. It seems to have happened in our city now. The first step in answering the “so what?” question is to begin discussing the demographic reality.

And as we are about 60 weeks before the next civic election, I will be trying hard to see what kind of acknowledgment of distinct voices will show up on the boards of Vision Vancouver and the NPA, as well as in their nomination meetings. And not tokenism or quotas but actual inclusion of voices from those who aren’t white men.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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2 thoughts on “51% of Vancouverites are Visible Minorities: So What?”

  1. “And not tokenism …” you write.

    But how to determine “tokenism” and who makes that call?

    The “token” is usually identified as someone with a point of view we don’t agree with. For example, Lorne Mayencourt was a token queer in the Liberal caucus because he was a conservative. So his voice was not authentically queer enough, except of course for other conservative queers.

    I too would not be considered an acceptable queer voice by many, as I often disagree with that community’s vocal mainstream. So I guess I’d be the “token queer” at an assembly of other old white guys.

    It’s a sticky business, this tokenism stuff.

    Kevin Dale McKeown

    1. thanks for your insight, kevin.

      determining what constitutes tokenism and who is to decide that are critical questions that need to be debated on the table in the public discourse.

      that’s part of the whole dialogue, i think.

      it sure is a sticky thing. that’s why we need to talk about it to seek a social consensus.

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