A Good Canadian

June 9, 2024 – Not sure how to feel


Look at the amazing photo. It’s an image of Babine Lake. I was just there for a couple of days working with Koh Learning and SD91 students. I had an awesome time working with the graduates students who came from the university as part of their coursework. We spent one night connecting and planning out a workshop they had to facilitate the next day. We had a few gut wrenching laughs. And, the students did exceptionally well the next day. The students were very engaged with their learning activity. The two days with Koh Learning was magical and spending some time in Granisle was something I needed to fill my soul to remind me about the land, place, and people. There is/was so much to learn and I was very humbled and happy.

After this event, I was collaborating with a colleague from the university. She is new to the university and I appreciated her insights and innovation. I feel that I will have a lot to learn from her and I look forward to seeing how this collaboration will manifest. During one of our conversations, she called me “a good Canadian.” I can see why se did. In lots of ways, I was being “a good Canadian.” I was not too opinionated, I was diplomatic, and I was considerate to all people (I might have been apologetic too). The comment took me by surprise. No one has ever called me “a good Canadian” before. Strangely, it’s been something I strived for as a second-generation Chinese Canadian.

I wonder if this perspective from my colleague is because she is new to Canada as well, spending a few years in Ontario before coming to BC. Her point of view was refreshing and I appreciate her straightforwardness and honesty. Most of my life I struggled with belonging and acceptance. This feeling could have been derived within my family in different ways, but also, it did not matter how “Canadian” my parents wanted me to be, you cannot change the colour of my skin. Racism was always present and sometimes visible. It’s not a good feeling to be called a racial slur when I don’t even know the language or culture of my Chinese heritage. That information was foreign to me, but for some people, how I looked influenced their opinion of me.

Moreover, I don’t want to get too hung up on stereotypes, but my kid who does not look Asian gets caught in some misnomers like “you should be good at math because….” Personally, I don’t look like a typical Asian. Growing up in Prince Rupert and working at the museum, visitors would often ask me what tribe I was from. I hated disappointing these tourists with an answer like “Hong Kong” or “China.” Honestly, I never saw myself as Asian or Chinese. I had always felt Canadian and I was brought up that way. My parents assimilated me into Canadian culture. I did not know any different. Racism is not blind. This journey into my ethnic identity is to learn more about Chinese-Canadians in BC. I also want to learn more about my family.

On the second day at Granisle, Leona Prince spoke in the opening circle. In her talk, she spoke about knowing ourselves and knowing the land. What struck me in her talk (which was outstanding and it resonated with me deeply) was her mentioning about owning and loving our name. Our last name tells us where we are from and who we are. Her asking ME to accept my last name (or any of my names for that matter) is troubling and extremely difficult. I never liked my name. Hmm… this is telling. “Alice Christine Ho”… for a good chunk of my life. I called myself “Chris Ho” for many years during my adult life. Then it transformed to “Christine Younghusband” (which by the way took a tonne of my thinking time to come to terms with that name) when I got married. Now, I go by “Christine Ho Younghusband.” To be honest, I was undecided.

Name, identity, place, and culture… I am left thinking and wondering… Who am I?