The Greater Victoria School Board has issued an apology for decisions made in the early 1900s that led to segregation of Chinese students in the public school system.
“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. The Greater Victoria School Board apologizes for the actions of its previous trustees and former board chair, George Jay,” said Greater Victoria School Board chair Ryan Painter.
“The racist discrimination that led to this act is unacceptable and viewed with regret. We will work with the Chinese community to ensure this history is not forgotten and remain committed to celebrating their immense contributions to the City of Victoria and South Vancouver Island.”
In 1907, the Victoria School Board passed a motion requiring Chinese students to pass an English exam to attend schools in the district.
The practice was legally challenged by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, and the district adapted the direction to allow Canadian-born Chinese students to enroll in Victoria schools, the school board said. Chinese-born children who did not pass the exam were forced to seek an alternative educational pathway.
In 1922, the school board passed another “resolution to segregate all Chinese students up to Grade 7 for the upcoming school year.”
Principals removed Chinese students from their classes. Onstead, they had to attend the Chinese Public School on King Road, which led to protests and a school boycott. The Chinese Canadian Club, the Chinese Commerce Association, and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association supported the strike.
“What started as a school boycott became a protest movement for equality which brought together the Chinese community locally, regionally and nationally from county and clan associations to individuals,” said Alan Lowe, Victoria Chinatown Museum Society’s chair.
“Those of us of Chinese descent, who were born and raised in Victoria, were able to attend public schools because of those who preceded us.”
On Monday, Sep. 5, community members will be able to retrace the segregated students’ steps and participate in a commemorative walk marking the 100th anniversary of the student protest.
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