Todd Wong's Dream Vancouver statement – Think City's theme for 2007 is “Dream Vancouver”

Todd Wong's Dream Vancouver statement

Think City's theme for 2007 is “Dream Vancouver”

No doubt this was inspired by the wonderful book Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination by Lance Berelowitz. It is about the story behind Vancouver's emerging urban form: the buildings, public spaces, extraordinary landscapes and cultural values that have turned the city into the poster-child of North American urbanism.

From the Think City website:

Photo: library at nightThink City
believes that all of us can help shape Vancouver’s future by
participating in the development of new ideas and proposals – for
affordable housing, sustainability, culture and the health of our

At Dream Vancouver, Think City and Simon Fraser University’s Public Policy Program
will bring together community activists, citizens and people like you
to share ideas on the most pressing challenges facing the City of

The Dream Vancouver conference
on Sunday, October 21, 2007 will follow an “open space,” Appreciative
Inquiry format facilitated by internationally renowned speaker and Imagine Chicago President Bliss Browne. Our keynote speaker for the conference will be former City of Vancouver Co-Director of Current Planning Larry Beasley.

Last month I was asked to write a “dream statement” for the conference to become one of the conference's community partners.  There are lots of great dream statements from people like Dr. Kerry Jang, Joy MacPhail, Mike Harcourt, environmentalist Joye Foy, SUCCESS Ceo Tung Chan, Vancouver Board of Trade manager Darcy Rezac,  policy planner Kennedy Stewart.

Here is my statement:

Dream Vancouver:
Diversity in our History and our Future

When my great-great grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan came to BC in 1896, the roads were dirt, and there was a head tax on Chinese immigrants.

When I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s I marveled at the way Hawaiian culture was so ethnically diverse.  Asian faces were on nightly news casts, and Hawaiian culture was embraced by mainstream American culture.  In Vancouver, there was still a sense of racial divisions, and ethnic marginalization.  Chinese-Canadian and First Nations history were more likely relegated to sidebar stories and foot notes.

Today, I am living my dream of making Vancouver and Canada more racially tolerant and interculturally exciting!

Every culture that lived along the Silk Road from Italy to Japan, from India to Egypt now lives in Vancouver.  Through the cross-fertilization of ideas, we are able to express new ways of seeing ideas and expressing customs, of expressing the same oneness through many perspectives of the kaleidoscope of life.  But so many times we talk about Canada as a mosaic or multicultural, and become more concerned with the pieces while we lose sight of the whole.

Vancouver IS an inter-cultural crossroad and we are inter-historic… linking not only Vancouver’s history with each new wave of immigrants – but also with our collective global history.  We carry within us the global cultural history of the world… in our little city on the edge.

Vancouver must become a 21st Century Renaissance City.  The “Gateway to the Pacific” is gone with the passage of steam ships… we are now in the computer internet information era.  Everything is instant – within hours… minutes… seconds.  We know what is happening around the world.    Vancouverites can live here and work all around the world.

We must NOT be afraid of doing something new or borrowing from a different culture, nor to place an idea within a different context.  Creative synthesis takes what already exists and applies it to different scenarios – new and exciting.

This is the simple beauty of Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  How would a Robbie Burns Day be celebrated by Chinese-Canadians?  How would a Chinese New Year be celebrated by Scottish-Canadians?

What if…  Canadians had both Chinese and Scottish ancestry?  What if we celebrated both Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New Year on the same day… with the same families?

This is the future of Vancouver.  We are already acknowledged as the Canadian city with the most intercultural marriages.  

We are all one family.

I see a day for Vancouver when every family will have a member whose ancestry: paid the Chinese head tax; was an indentured Scottish labourer after the Highland clearings; was a French-Canadian settler; is First Nations; left Iran after the Shah was deposed; was in the Japanese-Canadian internment camps during WW2; or fished in the Maritimes; or worked oil fields in Alberta; and is addicted to dragon boat racing.

We MUST know our history to build our future.  How did we come to be here?  Who built and shaped this city?

People told us it was impossible, when we embarked on our campaign to save author Joy Kogawa’s childhood home from demolition.  But in our success we helped to build a corner stone foundation for our future Vancouver.  It gave Vancouver its first literary landmark for a Canadian writer.  It gave Vancouver a landmark from a dark period of its history when Canadians, born of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and sent off to internment camps in the mountains, and their property was confiscated… for no reason other than fear.  

Kogawa House can link history, literature, the arts, social-criticism, heritage, and multiculturalism all together.  By building understandings for our cultural history, through the arts, business, and even recreation sports like dragon boat racing, we can give value to our history… and to our future.

We need to educate and mentor our future leaders.  Our city, our societies and our education must embrace the continued diversity of our cultures. We must build inter-disciplinary social-cultural philosophical infrastructures throughout business, society, arts, politics, academia, sports and recreation.  There is no separation between business and art, between sports and history, between academia and recreation.  All is related, and everything is possible.  This is my Vancouver.

Todd Wong

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