I meet city council candidate Colleen Hardwick Nystedt in Vancouver's Historic Chinatown.
It is fitting that I bump into Colleen Hardwick Nystedt
in Chinatown at the veterans ceremony on Rememberance Day. We
discover a mutural love of Vancouver history and heritage, and I invite
her to join us for lunch following the ceremony at the Chinese Canadian
Pioneer memorial at Keefer Triangle, at the corner of Columbia and
Colleen Hardwick Nystedt is 3rd from
left in the front row with BC Lee on her right – the only woman
in this photograph! My Grand-Uncle Daniel Lee is 2nd from right
in the back row. Family friend “Uncle” Bing Wong is 1st on the
left, and Ed Lee is on the far right in the front row. Mayor
Larry Campbell and councillor Raymond Louie and candidate George Chow
on his right – photo Todd Wong
We all go to the traditional Rememberance Day luncheon at Foo’s Ho Ho
Restaurant following, where they still serve up Cantonese homestyle
cooking, like in the good old days of Chinatown. The veterans all
socialize and are glad to see each other and their family members and
friends. I make sure some of the supporters are all
seated. There are family members of one of the veterans, and the
NPA candidates that I encourage to join me at a table. We make
introductions, and I interrelate the issues and connect them to the
veterans and Vancouver’s Chinatown history.
When I meet BC Lee, and explain that I am the creator of “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”,
his eyes light up, and he tells me he is very glad to meet me. He
explains that he organized the Chinese New Year celebrations at Plaza
of Nations. I tell him that we have some mutual friends who
always exclaim that they cannot believe I haven’t met BC Lee yet.
Seated beside me is Collen Hardwick Nystedt, whom I first saw at an
all-candidates meeting on Vancouver’s heritage and culture at the
Vancouver Museum. Colleen tells me that her father, Walter Hardwick, had been a
city counselor under the TEAM banner in the mid-70’s and that she had
walked with him in the protest marches against the planned freeway that
would have bi-sected Chinatown and the Strathcona neighborhoods.
Her grandmother had also been a city parksboard commissioner. We
quickly develop an interest drawn on our family’s long
multi-generational history in Vancouver.
Colleen Hardwick Nystedt sent me this
picture of her from 1970 when she walked in a protest for the
preservation of Gastown – photo courtesty of Colleen Hardwick Nystedt
Colleen shares that she had spent a lot of time in the old Ho Ho
Restaurant back in the 1980’s as a location manager in the film
industry. She told us some of the stories while making the film
“Year of the Dragon” which starred Mickey Rourke and admitted that it
portrayed stereotypes of Chinese people and of Chinatown.
I tell her that I was very impressed with the way she introduced
herself to the audience at the Vancouver Museum all candidates meeting,
and tackled some of the issues. While Colleen was not as up to
speed with some of the heritage issues as Vision Vancouver candidate Heather Deal,
who had the advantage of being a Parksboard commissioner who sat on the
Heritage commission, Colleen did not shy away and demonstrated that she
had the smarts and the will to be an assertive and effective
councilor. Colleen also grew up inside politics, had planned on a
career in urban geography before becoming a leader in the BC film
industry, and will bring a
strong presence and sense of Vancouver history.
“It’s about connectedness,” says Colleen, when I tell her that I really
appreciated what she had to say about her family history, and how that
informs her about the decisions she makes for today. When I ask
her about running for city council, she tells me “It was just a matter
I tell Colleen about my involvement with the Save Kogawa House
committee, and she is very interested. We are surprised to
discover that our social circles and interests cross over in different
places. She innocently asks me if I was aware of the Freeway
protests and I rattle off some of the names that were involved, but
admit that I was quite young when it was happening. She knows my
cousin architect Joe Wai, who has been a champion for both the
preservation and revitalization of Chinatown, who speaks enthusiastically of Colleen. She later sends me a
picture of herself at the
Freeway protests and of her father as a member of City Council.
While checking out Colleen’s website
I discover that she has been recognized by the Financial Post as “One
of the 13 Most Important People in the B.C. Film Industry”, she
received a “40 Under 40” Award for entrepreneurship from Business in
Vancouver Magazine, as well as numerous other awards.
Colleen has just been selected as the lone NPA candidate for the Georgia Straight's “The Straight slate for a more livable region,”
highlighting her knowledge as an urban geographer – no doubt influenced
by her father Walter Hardwick, a professor of geography that the
Straight calls one of the greatest city councillors ever.
Check out my architect friend David Wong's choice of Hardwick for council. David cites Walter Hardwick as one of his favorite UBC professors.
Colleen's father Walter Hardwick is
2nd from left in the back row standing beside Mike Harcourt.
Seated in the front row from the left is Jack Volrich and Mayor Art
Philips in this picture of the 1972 TEAM city council – photo courtesy
of Colleen Hardwick Nystedt.