Published online by the Student Activist Network, 21 August 1999
Victoria, BC – Seventy concerned citizens converged on the Work Point gymnansium on August 21 for a welcoming party in honour of detained Chinese immigrants.
The party was held on Clifton Terrace, a side-street in the municipality of Esquimalt. Barbed-wire fencing and fifteen metres of lawn separated the party-goers from the military gymnasium containing the immigrants.
As people spoke into an open mike, the Hsin-i Institute’s Tek Siaw translated the speeches via megaphone into the Fujianese dialect of Mandarin.
A local postal worker spoke of a resolution passed Wednesday by the Victoria Labour Council. The body, representing 20,000 Victoria-area workers, condemned the Times Colonist‘s racist coverage of the immigrants’ arrival. It also defended the immigrants’ right to a fair hearing process.
Military police patroled the area. A senior military public relations officer made a brief appearance. RCMP troops – in charge of security within the gymnasium – escorted handfuls of immigrants to outdoor porta-potties. The crowd waved enthusiastically and bellowed a hearty “welcome.” The detainees waved back.
Participants collected $80 dollars towards the purchase of clothing and other amenities. Signitures were collected on a large birthday card stating “Chinese Immigrants are Welcome Here” in both Mandarin and English, and a petition was circulated.
Students from across Cananda – in Victoria for a meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students’ provincial wing – attended the welcoming party, as did members of the Action Victoria coalition and the Community Coalition Against Racism.
An hour into the party, participants marched on a nearby entrance into the military base, chanting “Unemployment and Inflation are Not Cause by Immigration… Bullshit! Get off it – the enemy is profit!”
Soldiers sporting machine guns and red barrets quickly chained the gates shut. The party-goers attempted to present the welcoming card – bearing several hundred signatures – to the immigrants. A senior RCMP official refused to forward the card to the immigrants, saying “It would not be in the best interest of security and it would not be in the best interest of myself.”
Following several speeches and warm bellows of “welcome”, the party wound-up.