As a recent visitor to Campbell River over the Thanksgiving weekend, I want to share my experiences in your town.
I am a fifth generation Canadian, who was born in Vancouver, but recently I relocated to Nanaimo. On Saturday, Oct. 9 when a friend and I stopped in at the Campbell River art gallery, I asked a staff member working there for directions to the Mussels and More pottery gift shop. The staff member put his arms together in a gesture that resembled a steering wheel and asked, “Do you have a car?” He then turned his arms mimicking a driving motion.
As I watched his actions, I was confused. I thought “I am speaking perfect native speaker English, why is he making driving motions at me?” I then realized that he assumed I didn’t speak English and was shocked into silence.
A day later, I was at the Canyon View Trail when I came across a woman and young child. They were talking about snorkeling with the salmon under the bridge. I asked them, “Is the snorkelling easy to do?” The woman responded, “Yes but it is cold. We are in Canada you know.”
Again I was appalled and shocked into silence by this micro-aggression. I’ve had racist comments directed at me in the past but to experience two such flagrant examples within a few short days was just jarring and upsetting.
I thought in the year 2021, things would have changed. Have we not yet learned to be open and inclusive as Canadians? And about how words can act as micro-aggressions, eroding the sense of belonging? The art gallery incident made me feel that I was stupid and incapable. The second incident on the trail made me feel like an outsider; that I wasn’t a real Canadian. Of course, the Canada I was born in – and the one I cherish – is a friendly, welcoming, multicultural nation of settlers on indigenous territory.
These experiences made me feel unwelcome in Campbell River. It certainly didn’t leave a very good impression. I was glad to return to my home in Nanaimo.