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Victoria’s Chinese community walks to mark 100 years since segregated schools

Hundreds gathered to remember those who protested, hear school board’s apology
Alan Lowe, chair of the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society, said the school board’s apology allowed for closure over the issue. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Members of Victoria’s Chinese community marked 100 years since students walked out of their segregated school by retracing the route those students took on Sept. 5.

On Sept. 5, 1922, the Victoria School Board segregated all Chinese students up to Grade 7 for the upcoming school year. On that day, principals took Chinese students from their classes and led them to the Chinese Public School on King Road. But as they neared the building, the students dispersed and began striking in protest.

A century later, hundreds echoed those students’ steps, walking from George Jay Elementary to Wark Street Park to commemorate those students and hear the official apology from the Greater Victoria School Board.

“Without the bold, courageous steps of these children, we don’t know what the future would have held,” said Alan Lowe, chair of the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society. “It isn’t a history that’s well known, mainly because the Chinese community is very set in their ways. They like to work hard, be diligent and not go back on past wrongs. But we feel that as a Chinese-Canadian museum society, we needed to educate the public on what had happened in the past, and how we should use that to teach others about what had happened, and the hardships that our ancestors had gone through.”

Lowe said the apology brought closure to this chapter in Victoria’s history and said the community has come a long way since then.

Ryan Painter, Greater Victoria School District No. 61 board chair, presented the apology as well as a plaque commemorating the apology.

“Among a long list of historic wrongs perpetuated against the Chinese community in Victoria, this stands out as a particularly dark incident for our school district,” Painter said in a statement. “The Greater Victoria School Board apologizes for the actions of its previous trustees and former board chair, George Jay. The racist discrimination that led to this act is unacceptable and viewed with regret.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she had co-introduced a motion to council for the city to review its own history of exclusionary policies, with an eye on making an official apology down the line.

“One of the most important things about apologizing is that we understand what the specific wrongs are. And that’s the work that the city needs to do, again, inspired by the leadership of the school district, and by the Chinese Canadian community working together.

READ MORE: School board issues apology for 1900s segregation of Chinese students in Victoria

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Ryan Painter, Greater Victoria School District No. 61 board chair, presents the commemorative plaque to Thomas Chang, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)