Italians reclaim heritage in Vancouver

My article made the cover on the August 2009 issue of THE THUNDERBIRD.

Italians reclaim heritage in Vancouver

Also check out the photo gallery.

Italians in Vancouver


Satellite children: Negotiating ethnic identities

This is post is part of my preliminary research on Satellite Children (referred to as sat-kids) in Vancouver. I am interviewing several people who identify themselves as sat-kids and some of their stories are reproduced here as first hand real life experiences.

Who are they?

Ka Tat Sang, Faculty of Social work at University of Toronto writes, “Satellite children are children of ethnically Chinese immigrants to North America who have returned to their country of origin after immigration.”

There is a wide range of identity negotiating approaches in these interviews and the stats may vary as I progress further in my research. The idea came to me as a dear friend mentioned her trials and tribulations as a young Taiwanese immigrant to the luscious city of opportunity Vancouver with her younger sister. I have chronicled experiences of only two interviewees in this blog  to provide an idea about Sat-kids and what does it entail.  These individuals are very established Vancouverities and have thriving careers so in some ways these are their success stories. Yet it establishes why the issue at hand matters so much. I have many more interviews with a wide spectrum of impressions and thoughts.

On conditions of anonymity my interview subject opened up her heart to me for which I remain grateful. Never had I heard something so authentic and original in terms of feelings and emotions. As you read on bear in mind that it is a very brave attempt to convey her life story without breaking out into bouts of tears. I was teary eyed a few times during the interview but she kept a brave face and poured her thoughts out.

Some candid real life experiences:

Mary-Lou is the pseudonym I will use to refer to her, although she has an actual name. The gist of her story has roots in loss of a familial home, loss of identity and the struggle to embrace an entirely different culture and country as homeland. But the deeply embedded emotion I identified was the need to feel belonged- to claim some place as her own and carve her own niche.  I have written out her words verbatim below.

” I came here with my younger sister and my mother. My father came, stayed for a few days and left.  He is a very established Professor at a University in Taiwan. My mother is a pharmacist by profession. We are very well-0ff in terms of financial capacity.

It was a very new culture for me and my mother had to struggle to get us established. She cooked, cleaned and tried to get life together for us. I became a mother for my sister as I eventually learned to drive and had to drop her off and pick her up from school and other activities.

I do not feel that I was ever a kid, always a responsible grown up who had a child to look after. Part of the reason was that my mother could not speak the language as well as I could. She also had mobility problems and would get lost if she went too far away from home. So she stuck to friends and places where she could communicate easily.

My father would come visit every once in a while but never really enough to make me feel nutured. I always felt that he was more duty bound to come see us than anything else. I craved for a father. Luckily I had a mother and a sister, some of us here have no one at all and are completely on their own. I had a home to go at the end of the day.

I believe if my father had not sent us away we would be a normal family. But to him Canada was a land of opportunity for us. We could learn English get better education and if we chose we could c0me back whenever we wanted. But now after living here for so long I wasnt sure if I wanted to go back. As fate would have it I met my boyfriend who is from Taiwan, he moved back and that has motivated me to move back.  My sister adapted better than I did. Probably because she was younger and slipped right into her role.

My father got a mistress and when my mom found out, she was devastated. My father was not very remorseful about the break up of our family and that ate me up inside. Now I think I keep a more closer watch on my boy friend because of my experiences. You can call it insecurity if you like.”

The other interviewee is a successful, career focused individual with a well established life style in Metro Vancouver, yet memories are still fresh from being a sat-kid. Please note again that this is verbatim.

“1) Economic difficulties: My Dad was an entrepreneur in Taiwan, but did not have a formal education. So naturally, when coming to Canada, his only option was to continue with doing business. He found moderate success in his first 2 to 3 years; however, opportunities in Taiwan was still better, which eventually led him back to Taiwan.

I wouldn’t necessarily blame the government for my dad moving back to Taiwan. This is Canada….it is what it is….there’s only 33 million people in this vast land of ours. Taiwan is probably a little bigger than Vancouver Island and has a population of 23 million. The density of the population makes a big difference when considering economic opportunities. And Canada, while I’ve observed significant improvement over the last 10 years, still has a strong socialist ideology.

Everyone expects the government to feed them dinners; and the economic improvements came mostly from the new immigrants to this country. So, it was obvious that my dad would’ve found better opportunities back in Taiwan. It’s been 20 years now, and he’s been coming back two times a year. Each stay is around one week. I feel very lucky that our family is still together. The hardest was probably on my mom….now that I’m raising my own family, my mom can stay with my father three to four months of the year in Taiwan.

2) Social Issues: Never had the flashy cars….I don’t know if you can count a Honda Prelude as a flashy car….it was a gift for my acceptance to University. Definitely, the self-esteem played a factor in my highschool years. I was getting in a lot of trouble, grade 12 was the only year I was not suspended. Some of my friends ended up going to Jail….most of them had the satellite issues. I didn’t think I had a self-esteem issue in high school; I always felt super confident.

But in looking back at the things I did, I would definitely say that low self-esteem would explain a lot of my past behaviours. But at the end of the day, you make decisions for yourself…you can’t blame your parents or the environment. You choose where you want to go in life!”

Keeping these impressions in mind I want you to take away from this blog that it is not easy being the new kid on the block, especially when that “new kid” comes from a completely different culture and speaks an entirely different language.


Move over MAC, Sephora is here

As I drove by the Mall today when I left the house I saw an unusual number of cars in the parking lot. I thought for a second probably its the summer circus back in town but the place was devoid of the glittering carousel and the big tents that come with the circus package. Then it all came to me. Today is the big day.

Sephora make up line. Photo Courtesy:
Sephora make up line. Photo Courtesy:

Make up giant Sephora opens doors to two Vancouver locations, one in Pacific Centre (downtown) and the other in Coquitlam Centre. The third store will open in the Metrotown Mall (Burnaby) in October 2009.

Georgia Strait called it the Cosmetic Candy Store . In order to understand Sephora’s success, you need to know about the approach that’s helped it establish more than 800 stores in 14 countries.

“It’s like a beauty playground,” said spokesperson Christine Egashira, during a tour of the 5,421-square foot Coquitlam store that includes energy efficient and environmentally friendly amenities like LED lights and a recycling program.

It is a feeling of deja vu when a few years ago MAC opened its doors for the Vancouver market. Now Sephora has taken the Vancouverite fashionistas by storm.

Will I go and visit the store? Sure I will as they carry a vast variety of prestigious products. But I will not be lining up outside the malls to be amongst the first to enter the store today.

life, Published articles, Vancouver Olympics 2010

Homelessness in Vancouver to triple by 2010

Vancouver’s homeless population is growing at such a fearsome rate that it could triple to 3,000 people by the time visitors arrive for the 2010 Olympic Games, says a report released by an advocacy group Thursday.

A homeless man soaks up the sun in Kitsilano
A homeless man soaks up the sun in Kitsilano

“Without immediate action, the estimated 2.3 million visitors who come to our city to see the Olympics will find a Vancouver in the midst of an urban epidemic of poverty,” said Pivot Legal Society spokesman David Eby as he released the report.

The burgeoning homeless population would be “clear evidence of a broken commitment to address the impact of the 2010 Olympics,” Eby said.

When Vancouver bid for the 2010 games, federal, provincial and municipal governments pledged to protect the city’s rental housing and ensure no one would be left homeless because of the Games.

The city estimates that about 1,200 people currently sleep outside without shelter on a nightly basis.

A room in the Burns Block of Vancouver’s downtown east side was home to Veronica Crow Eagle for eight years. It wasn’t a home she was proud of. People urinated on the floor of her shared bathroom and garbage, including used hypodermic needles, piled up in the public spaces.

But the 61-year-old, who suffers from arthritis and a painful intestinal inflammation called Crohn’s disease, was hard pressed to find replacement lodging when the building failed a fire safety inspection. She and the other tenants were forced onto the street.

Crow Eagle, who has found a new place to live, considers herself lucky.

“Most of the rents run $400 to $465,” she said.

Not everyone can afford those rates. The standard shelter allowance for welfare recipients is $325 dollars a month. The rate hasn’t increased in 12 years.

“There’s hardly anyone who’ll give you a rent for $325,” said Crow Eagle.

Homelessness has been a prevalent issue in the local media. Here is more coverage on the issue:

life, Published articles, Uncategorized

A celebration of “right to life, liberty and security of person.”

The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is celebrated on December 10, 2008.

The UDHR was a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris.

The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the Organization’s founding nations resolved that the horrors of the Second World War should never be allowed to recur.

The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has launched a year-long campaign to lead up to this anniversary. Because the UDHR holds the world record as the most translated document (with more than 360 language versions available), organizations around the globe will be able to use the year to focus on helping people everywhere learn about their rights.

“On this Human Rights Day, it is my hope that we will all act on our collective responsibility to uphold the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration. We can only honour the towering vision of that inspiring document when its principles are fully applied everywhere, for everyone,” Ki-Moon said.

At the United Nations Headquarters in New York a number of special events are taking place. The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights will be awarded at the special afternoon commemorative General Assembly plenary meeting in the General Assembly Hall. The recipients of the 2008 Prize are: Ms. Louise Arbour, Mr. Ramsey Clark, Dr. Carolyn Gomes, Dr. Denis Mukwege and Human Rights Watch.

Assassinated Ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan Mrs. Benazir Bhutto and Sr. Dorothy Stang are awarded the prize posthumously.

Environment and Climate Change, Published articles

Sustainability and climate change: Need action Now

Cullis-Suzuki at UBC

Severn Cullis- Suzuki and Stephen Lewis were at UBC as part of the “Students for Sustainability” tour.

Here are the two articles I wrote that got published in the NowPublic and The Ubyssey.

Environmentalists Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Stephen Lewis are calling on governments globally to “force” sustainability measures on their citizens and want action now.

Cullis- Suzuki, the daughter of renowned activist David Suzuki and Lewis, Canadian politician and diplomat, were speaking to a gathering of students at University of British Columbia (UBC). They outlined a plan of action to address global warming that includes the urgent need for government leaders to provide pragmatic solutions to climate change crisis.

Lewis called it a “desperate moment in time”. Cullis-Suzuki reiterated, “Human societies never change unless they are forced to, and the problem is that our elected leaders are not implementing them.”

His main concern was about working towards sustainability as a common goal, not for the ways governments planned on handling the issue.

“I don’t care whether the answer is a carbon tax which appeals to me more than other regiments …. I really don’t care what you use…it has to be done and political interventions are necessary.” Lewis said.

The talk was part of the Canada wide 21 university campus tour lasting 30 days. The “Students for Sustainability” tour was aimed at creating awareness about climate change and the environment among university students.

The tour came about after realizing Federal government of Canada’s inability to meet the international obligations for lowering carbon emissions. Canada had committed to reducing emissions 6% below 1990 levels during 2008-2012, instead greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 27% in 2004.

The Canadian Federation of Students and the Sierra Youth Coalition and the David Suzuki Foundation together have mobilized students across Canada to put pressure on politicians to take action on climate change and other environmental issues. The students at each campus were asked to sign a petition to support the sustainability cause which will be presented to the Parliament in November 2008.

UBC was the second to last university for the tour, launched from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland on September 30 and ended at the University of Victoria, BC.

Cullis-Suzuki put the onus on students to recruit parents for becoming more environmentally friendly, as their challenge is far more powerful than any other person.

“Use your inter-generational power. These people [parents] are still decision makers in our society,” Cullis-Suzuki said.

Cullis-Suzuki had optimistic hopes about the future, “Each of us directs the future by what kind of difference each of us makes. How we make that difference is up to us.”

Faiza Zia Khan

Published articles

Media Democracy Day 2008

Speaking for Our Selves: Media Democracy Day 2008

We all have a relationship with media, whether it be a strong,

traditional commitment or an exciting new dalliance as we delve into

unexplored domains. It provides us with a sense of community and

context. It allows us to form new perspectives and debates. It

provides us with necessary information. But how often do we question

whether this relationship is working?

Media Democracy Day is a way for us to ensure the media that educates

us is also honest and is happening in Vancouver on the 25th October

2008 at the Vancouver Public Library.

Steve Anderson, organizer of Media Democracy Day 2008 Vancouver, says

that “with media concentrating into fewer and fewer hands, and

Internet Service Providers quickly emerging as online gatekeepers, a

public forum on media issues like media democracy day, takes on a new

sense of urgency. I’m trilled to see such a full and diverse roster of

speakers, workshops and panels, it promises to be an exciting day.”

This year three panels will pay attention to the important issues

influencing our current media landscape. Panel 1, “Big Media” Clamp

Down – Taking stock and fighting back, will survey some of the main

battles currently being fought against Big Media. In Panel 2,

Journalism in a time of Big Media Domination, panelists will discuss

the current issues being faced by traditional media and describe what

they see as the possibilities of using new media and new models to do

in-depth investigative projects, find untold stories, and engage new

audiences. Could these projects counteract big media, and redefine

journalism? Panel 3,

The Battle for New Media and Open Communication, will examine the

growing role the internet has in “mass media” and if an open Internet

will succumb to the same companies that control traditional media.

Panelists will discuss the fight for an open Internet, prospects for

new social media, and future challenges at a time of intense

opposition from a powerful cartel of phone and cable companies.

Speakers for Media Democracy Day include: Rex Weyler (Author and

Co-founder of Greenpeace); Matt Thompson (Award winning online video

producer, Campaign Strategist for FreePress, Co-Founder of; Deborah Campbell (Award Winning Independent

Journalist); Andrea Hayley (President of the Epoch Times Vancouver);

Michael Tippett (Co-founder of; Robert Hackett

(Professor at SFU and author of “Remaking Media”); Robert Scales (CEO

of RainCity Studios); Brian Campell (Seriously

Free Speech Committee) and Kate Milberry (Media and Technology

Commentator and Blogger).

The anticipated workshop in Media Democracy Day in 2008 is Community

Organizing and Media: Networking for Change which seeks to share

strategies that are effective at both shaping the corporate media, and

at building connections between respective community media networks

working on social justice issues, such as indigenous rights, migrant

rights, the environment, poverty and women’s rights. Two other

workshops will discuss Open Source Journalism – how to ensure that

journalism adheres to and benefits from open source principles and The

Media Revolution – A workshop on OpenSource Software.

Media Democracy Day Vancouver will be held at the Vancouver Public

Library, 350 West Georgia Street, on Saturday October 25th 2008 from

12 noon to 6 pm. Admission is free and open to everyone. The event

also includes the Media Democracy Fair which will showcase a variety

of organisations and information.

This year’s sponsors are: The Ruth and Henry Goodman Fund for Social

and Ecological Justice, Endswell Fund of Tides Canada; Federation of

Post-Secondary Educators of BC; CUPE BC; British Colombia Teachers’

Federation; BC Government and Services Employees’ Union; British

Colombia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council;

NowPublic; The Tyee; Campaign for Democratic Media; SFU Faculty of

Applied Sciences; SFU School of Communication; SFU Institute for

Humanities; UBC School of Journalism; Free Geek; The Centre for Policy

Research on Science and Technology (CPROST); SFPRIG; Agentic; CMNSU;

The Republic and the Communications Energy and Paperworks Union

Western Region.

For additional media information or to discuss sponsorship

opportunities please contact:

Caroline Warwick


Faiza Zia Khan

or Steve Anderson


The full programme and further information on Media Democracy Day is

available at

For information on setting up a FREE table as part of the Media

Democracy Fair, please


Rodger Levesque

For more information on democratic media visit

More information about this event is attached.

(Press Release. Speaker Bio’s. Media Democracy Day background information.)

Faiza Zia Khan