All posts by Alex Tse

Alex Tse writes when no one's looking. She believes in the true meaning of hipster and she'd like it if you became her vegan cupcake friend. Find her on the internetz @alexnotangry and

The Vancouver Food Policy Council And That Awkward Racist Guy

Mr. Bill Hard-done-by-those-coloured-people Zylmans. I bet even his strawberries are racist.

Please see the VFPC response at the end of this post.

I was really excited last Thursday to go to an event about farming in Vancouver. I’m really geeky about stuff like that. I think I’ll forever be the only one of my friends who uses the hashtag #AgMoreThanEver. I’m one of the few people I know that commit their entry-level wage (I don’t even know many people with higher wages that do this) to fresh produce from the farmer’s market. I even subscribe to newsletters from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, because you know, reading about mobile abattoirs and vegetable marketing workshops is totally relevant to a city girl like me.

The point is, I’m really passionate about farming. I want it to thrive in B.C. I care about the issues.

So when the Vancouver Food Policy Council (VFPC) organized a panel discussion called “A Citizen’s Guide to the Agricultural Land Reserve,” I had to be there. It’s a critical point for farming right now in our province, and it all hinges on protecting farmland for future generations. It’s my job as a citizen to be informed.

So I was really excited about learning more at the panel discussion until, not even 20 minutes into the meeting, Bill Zylmans, B.C. farming bigshot, finishes his presentation to the audience with this dramatic flourish: “There’s not that many [of us] Caucasian [farmers] left.”


The room got awkward, the applause was dry, but nobody said a word. Zylmans didn’t even notice.

He later added another gem; of the 500 acres that Zylmans farms in Richmond, only 120 acres belongs to his family. “The rest,” he said, “is owned by offshore investors. Figure out what that means. [The panelist from the Ministry] can’t say that, but I can.”

So … if it’s not already obvious why these comments are problematic: how many Caucasian farmers should Bill and other white men like him need to feel comfortable? What’s wrong with having farmers reflect the ethnic diversity of the region that they live in? Are there too many coloured people? Should that make us uncomfortable?

Zylman’s offshore comment is also a little misplaced. Yes, it’s difficult for farmers to make a living if they cannot afford to have their own land, and that’s a problem. But Zylman’s comment hinted, again, at the fear of too much involvement from Foreign Coloured People.

One of the reasons why I didn’t speak up at the meeting was because I really don’t care whether or not people like Zylmans ever learn not to embarrass themselves in public with racist comments. And it’s clear from Zylmans’s attitude that he doesn’t care either. Old white guys are gonna be old white guys. There’s not much you can do for a determined racist.

It doesn’t matter how racist Bill is because what matters is how the VFPC, an established and respected leader for the farming movement in Vancouver, reacts when a speaker they invited outs himself as a bigot. It’s true that Zylmans is an important and knowledgable figure when it comes to farming. He likely has a lot of valuable insight when it comes to B.C. agriculture. But this knowledge will not help the cause when it comes with so much racist baggage.

Here I was, so excited to learn about farming, but because of the colour of my skin I suddenly didn’t feel welcome there anymore. Isn’t my support for the cause just as valuable? What if I fulfilled my dream of becoming a farmer one day, would I be Too Asian to farm in B.C.? Does Zylmans have any idea how much I’ve been advocating for local farm produce amongst my family and friends? What about celebrated food hero Arzeena Hamir, who has done so much to speak up for saving farmland in B.C.? Shouldn’t the success of her new farm in the Comox Valley be celebrated by farmers all over our province? Or is Hamir’s farm a threat to Caucasian B.C. farmers?

You know white farmers have good reason to be afraid when the overwhelming majority of people that show up to a public farm policy meeting are white

Your movement cannot win if it fails to be inclusive. Here Zylmans was, saying the government needs to do this and the government needs to do that, and yet he didn’t consider the political support that ethnic minorities could lend to the cause!

But again, it’s okay for Zylmans to be racist. We don’t have to take him seriously. What’s not okay is if the Vancouver Food Policy Council continued to give a platform to racist speakers and to ask racist speakers to represent the cause. For the sake of the movement, the VFPC should distance themselves from Zylmans and not invite him to speak at future events.


The Vancouver Food Policy Council response

We’ve been having email based conversation with the council over that last few days about this same issue, mainly Bill’s comments and how we can address such a situation in the future, if it arises. We’re also talking about how we can better ensure the VFPC meetings are a safe space for everyone. And we’re talking about how to incorporate anti-oppression training into our council work.

At the February meeting, we’ll make sure to include an update on our progress, and will start off the meeting by reminding all attendees and panelists that we expect them to be respectful in their comments.

The VFPC is working to plan a meeting in the upcoming months specifically discussing discrimination/oppression in the food system – perhaps highlighting some of the work being done locally.  This was our intention previous to the meeting last Wednesday and it seems even more important now that we are having this discussion within the community. Its very complicated and emotional territory to tackle and as volunteers the VFPC has its limitations as a forum to do so. However, we want and need to communicate around this issue in order to understand how to bring a just and sustainable food system forward. And so, I put the invitation to you and your readers that if there are any ideas or energy we would gladly like to hear them (


A moment of fear

There’s a moment of fear that all women come to know. I know it well. I was once the only female member of a music band. One time at practice, a male band member joked that “We should get blowjobs for all the band members.”

What did I do? Everyone else in the room thought this was funny so I tried to laugh along.

People will hate you for calling them out on sexism, and I didn’t want to be disliked for rocking the boat. I wanted to be accepted as a member of the group, but I shouldn’t have had to accept sexist comments in order for that to happen.

The fear comes from the feeling that women should to submit to sexism and objectification. That we should enjoy being dehumanized and reduced to sex objects. It’s frightening to feel powerless and alone in an environment which is openly disrespectful towards women.

I promise this has happened to every woman you knowAny woman could tell you a dozen more stories like this.


Still, I was shocked by this blog post (“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”) by Meagan Marie, employee at Crystal Dynamics gaming studio. And also by this blog post by gaming industry veteran Christa Charter. Because as much as I and other women and girls experience sexism in everyday situations, women working in the gaming industry get this disproportionately.

Significant strides have been made by the gaming industry in the past year thanks to prominent feminists like Anita Sarkeesian, but those strides have mostly been in starting and growing the conversation. The concrete, tangible improvements in the gaming industry offices and in the video games themselves are another matter. And the price paid by pioneers of female leadership in the gaming industry, such as that paid by Meagan and Christa, was/is much too high.

It’s something especially important to think about as Fan Expo comes to Vancouver today.

How to Petition the CRTC against Sun News’ Mandatory Carriage

Photo source: Globe and Mail

Remember this? Well, you’re about to see a lot of more of Sun New’s hateful and inflammatory programming if Quebecor Inc. gets its way. The owner of the TV network that regularly advocates for the do-or-die free market has launched a campaign to get mandatory carriage for Sun News, meaning that Sun News would be included in all basic cable packages in Canada.

Canadians have overwhelmingly rejected Sun News’ brand of yellow-journalism (here’s a particularly offensive Sun article describing Attawapiskat as a “cesspool”), but under mandatory carriage, cable subscribers would NOT be able to opt out of their subscription to Sun News. How’s that for free market competition? Other the other hand, the struggling TV network would have its yearly $17 million loss covered by a new $18 million revenue (or about $4 per cable subscriber). You can find more information about Sun News’ application for mandatory carriage on and on

If you OPPOSE the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) granting Sun News a mandatory carriage license for their questionable programming, you can submit your opposition to the CRTC, but you’ll have to be quick – the deadline is Feb. 20, 2013. The process is a bit fickle, so I’ve posted a step-by-step guide below. You can do this online in about 5 minutes.

Please note I did not create this guide; it was passed around the WAM! Vancouver listserv. It’s also worth noting that any submission to the CRTC is considered a public submission; your name and email will be made public.

Here’s the guide:

Assuming you would be submitting as an individual consumer, and not on behalf of an organization or other person, follow this procedure:

  1. Go to the CRTC’s online “Participate in a Consultation” submission page
  2. Click “I Agree” > Next
  3. Click “Option 1” > Next
  4. On the “Choose Applicant/Licensee” page, scroll way down to (and click on) “2012-0687-1: Sun News General Partnership” > Next
  5. On the “Submit a Comment” page, first choose “Opposition”, then type/paste your comments** in the “Enter Comment” field (and attach any files you think are relevant, e.g. PDF of an article that highlights Sun News’ racism, etc., which is optional) > Next

    **Example letter (recommended you edit/write your own):

    The Sun NewsNetwork broadcasts sexist, racist and other hateful/inflammatory programming that does not reflect my values. It’s fine if their private supporters want to purchase their channel under their current license, but the fact that they are seeking “mandatory carriage” in order to fund their type of “yellow-journalism” just proves that most Canadians do NOT care for their programming. We do not think Canadian tax dollars should fund or make it easier for their biased coverage to enter our homes, whether in the form of basic cable coverage, or in any other format. We request you DENY them “mandatory carriage”. Thank you for your consideration.

  6. Click on “Do not want to appear” (at the April 23 hearings), and confirm “I agree” > Next
  7. Click “NO” re: designated representative > Fill out the “Intervener/Respondent Information” (your name/address/email) > you must ALSO click on the bottom checkbox that says “I will be sending a copy of my comments to the applicant”, in order to continue the submission process (this is mandatory, and probably the CRTC equivalent of legal “discovery”) > Next
  8. Confirm whether everything you entered is correct, and whether or not you want a copy of your submission by email > SUBMIT

You are done with the CRTC’s form, but note you are ALSO expected to send a note of opposition directly to Sun News for the CRTC to consider it a legitimate submission. Submit your opposition to Sun News being granted “mandatory carriage” by writing to them directly* at:

TVA Group Inc. and Sun Media Corporation
c/o Québecor
1600 Maisonneuve Boulevard East
Montréal, Quebec
H2L 4P2 Canada

~ OR VIA ~
Fax: 514-380-4664

Be sure to include “RE: Opposition to Mandatory Carriage RE: 2012-0687-1: Sun News General Partnership” in the subject line and in the document itself. SAVE A COPY for your records, as the CRTC may require proof of your submission for it to be valid.

If you would prefer to not use the online submission process, you can instead submit your comments to the CRTC* by snail-mail or fax:

By mail: CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2
By fax: 819-994-0218

*Be sure to include “RE: Opposition to Mandatory Carriage RE: 2012-0687-1: Sun News General Partnership”

Here are two other online petitions against mandatory carriage of Sun News. Though I doubt the CRTC is obligated to consider them, it can’t hurt to sign them anyway:

I’m not a soldier, but I am in a war

I’m always amazed by how heartfelt Remembrance day presentations are from secondary school students who have never personally experienced war. They feel more honest somehow, even though they are just as routine as the municipal ceremonies.

But Remembrance Day ceremonies are too much about soldiers’ deaths and individual veterans. There is no question that we must honour their sacrifice, but wars involve more than just soldiers. They involve politics and corruption, and the misunderstandings that cause people to die. Why are we so fixated on those who died that we never look at how and why? How does our reliance on oil affect the international warscape? How many universities have official military ties? How many assassinations have been paid for by Goldcorp? Remembrance ceremonies in their current format externalize war – as if war belonged only to soldiers and to the past – when in reality, war belongs to all of us in the here and now.

I already know they gave their lives for me. They gave their lives so that I could have healthy food, freedom of speech, clean air and democracy. But everything about the American Dream is being threatened once more, and if those valiant souls were here now they would rally us to fight for our lives. Instead we are content simply to reminisce – as if war were a thing of the past. It’s not.

How can we stand to simply remember the dead when more still are falling? How can I appreciate the life they fought for me to have when every moment it is slipping through our fingers? We are never so emotionally united as we are on Remembrance day, making it our biggest hope for education and action. They died for us. Don’t let it be for nothing.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw

Sounds from the Diaspora: Asia Indie Music in Canada

Youtube has propelled Asian talents like Kina Grannis, Andrew Garcia, and Clara C to the forefront of DIY music fame. These Californian artists have garnered an overwhelming share of social media attention and it begs the question: do Canada’s indie industries compare? Are we capable of producing our own indie, Asian music celebrities?

We know that the Canadian indie genre is wildly successful, as evidenced by international celebrated bands like Stars and Arcade Fire. But it is difficult to find comparable Asian music from Canada, and as a Canadian of Chinese descent, I find this particularly distressing. Is Asian Canadian music not getting the recognition it deserves, or are Asian Canadians simply not musically talented?

Clearly, it is not a case of the latter, so I became determined to scout out these musical obscurities. Some of the most notable Asian songsmiths in the country include Youtube stars Andrew Gunadie and Andrew Huang, or gunnarolla and songstowearpantsto on Youtube, respectively. Gunadie is the co-producer of Canadian Please, a viral video hit that invokes fuzzy feelings of true north patriotism with lyrics like, “Where else do you find mounted police / Or go to the hospital and not pay fees? / Yeah I know that you wanna be Canadian, please.”

Huang must first be commended on his perfectly triangular eyebrows, but his claim to Youtube fame is otherwise based on his fearless creativity and his enterprising internet sass. The headline on says, “Andrew makes songs based on your ideas” and in a blog post he writes, “I’ve yet to be met with a song idea or a style of music that I can’t make happen.” In the past, Huang has met even the most challenging submissions head-on, including the suggestion: “I think you should write a song about a man ordering a burrito and being extremely intimidated by the size of it. The music should be Celtic techno.”

Gunadie and Huang both hail from Toronto, but No Luck Club is one of Vancouver’s own. “There’s a lot of hippies in Vancouver,” says laptop sampler Trevor Chan, “so we know when we do our funky thing, people are gonna throw down.” Along with his brother Matt Chang and DJ Paul Delen, the trio make up an electronic hip hop band which produces music in a chameleonic range of genres – from Hong Kong gangster movie soundtracks to activist sound collages.

It is all too easy in Canada to celebrate the success and prominence of our indie music industry and to forget that music from ethnic minorities still remains relatively unknown. The number of prominent Asians in the Canadian music scene speaks to our level of cultural diversity and is therefore worthy of our attention and support. Indie music will be even more a source of nationalistic pride when it is enriched by our sense of multiculturalism.


*Note: Know any other Asian Canadian musicians? Let me know about them in the comments! It was especially hard to find female Asian Canadian musicians other than Sook-Yin Lee and some of the members from Ohbijou so please let me know if you know of any.