The resilience B.C. anti-racism network offers a community-based, centralized network for anti-racism education and immigrant integration
This story is part of a feature that first appeared in print in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine’s July 2022 issue. Read the entire e-edition here:

As Revelstoke grows and changes, its demographic profile is expanding to people from across the globe. Although a widely welcoming place at heart, one provincial initiative is fighting intolerance in communities through integration and anti-racism awareness.
The Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network is an initiative funded by the Government of British Columbia. It offers a multi-faceted, province-wide approach to identifying and challenging racism.
The program follows a “Hub and Spoke” model. A central Resilience BC Hub serves as the program lead; connecting communities, increasing capacity to share information and resources, while coordinating training and anti-racism initiatives. Offshooting from the “hub” are community-based “spokes.” Over 50 communities in British Columbia currently offer “spoke services.” Settlement Services at the Okanagan College’s Revelstoke Centre serve as this communities “spoke.”
Leanne Humphrey is a settlement worker at Revelstoke’s Okanagan College Centre, who supports immigrants and migrant workers in the community. According to Humphrey, Revelstoke’s “spoke” has identified some “areas of need.” They particularly involve anti-Asian rhetoric that has emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve heard of incidences on the street [in Revelstoke] with verbal accosting of locals who have Asian heritage and/or identify as Asian-Canadian,” Humphrey says. As she solemnly elaborates, many of these incidences involve youths instigating verbal attacks on visible minorities.
“That is very disconcerting looking ahead at the future of our community, where youth are our future,” Humphrey explains, adding that diversity plays a vital role in the community.
“Revelstoke was built in a very diverse manner, and we want to keep it that way. There’s no getting away from the migrant workers [and] seasonal workers aspect of our town. If we don’t embrace it, we’re going to lose a lot of really valuable people in our economy.”
However, there are tools to maintain the diversity that has built this community. Bystander training, which teaches people how to intervene when hate speech or hate crimes happen, is available through the Okanagan College’s community “spoke.”
Additionally, Okanagan College’s Settlement Services offers programs and resources for immigrants and migrant workers in Revelstoke. This includes English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, which help give newcomers precious communication skills.
As Humphrey explains, helping people integrate into the community creates new connections that fight racism at it’s core.
“We lose the stigmas, we lose the language barriers, or we help with language barriers. When people who are long-term locals see more faces out and more happy interactions, it fights racism at it’s core, you know, in a personable way.”
To highlight diversity in Revelstoke, I spoke with three Revelstoke families about their journey to this community, what challenges they’ve faced, and why this town is so special to them.
These are their stories:
Thirteen years ago, Youn w Im made the pivotal decision to leave her home in Seoul, South Korea. After arriving in Canada, Im and her husband landed in the small town of Revelstoke. She adopted a new name, Maimi Im, and began her new life.
Little did she know, this mountain town would be the blossoming place for her family, a successful business, and her future– despite initially wanting to move to a bigger city. On a bustling Tuesday afternoon at Conversations Coffee House, Im took a break between blending coffees and serving lunches to reflect on the past decade in Revelstoke.
“When I came here, the first year I couldn’t speak English. Only, ‘Hi, how are you?’” Im reflects. She describes herself as an outgoing person, and facing the language barrier was the most difficult part of her transition.
When the Ims first moved to Revelstoke, they were unsure about staying in a small town. However, the Ims were soon enamoured with the close-knit community.
“Me and my husband wanted to move to another city, a bigger city like Kelowna or Vancouver,” Im elaborates. “The people [in cities] were not good to us. But in Revelstoke, people try to understand my English and they are very patient.”
She explains that the Revelstoke community always made her feel supported; whether it was kind actions from neighbours, resources at Community Connections, or English lessons at Okanagan College.
“The community [is] quality… I like Revelstoke because people are helping each other in any way [they can],” Im says.
After spending a decade working various hospitality gigs, Im made the decision to buy Conversations Coffee House and open her business one year ago.
“I grew up in the kitchen. Yeah, I like the cooking,” Im laughs. “I just realized it was time to time to take up a business.”
The cafe, as Im explains, offers a casual environment where she can practise her English. Appropriately named, Conversations Coffee House is a place where Im can chat with long-term locals and learn more about Revelstoke’s history.
Initially, Im worried that local palates would not be able to handle spicy Korean cuisine. However, she was pleasantly surprised by the communities reception to new flavours and dishes. Fusion dishes, like the bulgogi grilled cheese, are particularly popular.
Additionally, the cafe’s hours allow her to spend more time with her family. Her two children, who are nine and ten years old, have spent their entire life in Revelstoke. Neither of her children have visited South Korea; something Im hopes to change very soon.
“We need to bring them to Korea,” she laughs. “They couldn’t learn lots about the Korean culture because they’ve [always been] Canadian.”
For Brooke Peng, living in Canada was a dream she “buried” for many years due to financial and family reasons. But, after facing her fears and moving from Taiwan to Revelstoke in 2019, Peng is fulfilling her dreams and chasing her Canadian permanent residency.
When Peng was in fifth grade, she attended summer camp in Canada. Back then, she was only known by her Chinese name: Hui-Ping Peng. However, that trip to Canada left a massive impression on Peng.
“I loved the environment here and the education system, compared to Taiwan or any other Asian countries,” Peng explains. She describes a dedicated, albeit stressful working culture in Taiwan; one that Peng never felt she fit into.
“In an Asian country, they think you just need to graduate from university, you need to get a stable job, good salary … You have to follow the path. Like my brother,” Peng laughs. “But I’m the one who never follows it.”
After graduating from university in Taiwan, Peng set off and began her travels. Her newly achieved degree in tourism opened many doors for her – the first leading to Australia.
Before coming to Canada, Peng spent a year in Australia on a working holiday. While most Australians treated Peng with kindness, she unfortunately faced racist encounters in rural parts of the country.
“On the way to the supermarket, people just roll down their window and say ‘F-word, F-word Chinese,’ something like that,” Peng recalls. “When I arrived there, I started from zero because it’s a new language for me. [It’s a] different accent.”
After facing these interactions, Peng was almost shocked by the kindness she received upon arrival in Revelstoke. She vividly remembers walking to her first shift at the Revelstoke Lodge and being greeted by a woman named Lisa.
“‘[I was] walking by this house and then I hear, ‘Hello, how are you? Good morning!’ and she was holding a cup of coffee, sitting outside. I was like, ‘Wow, very friendly,’ Peng reflects. There is a general attitude of “helpfulness” that she experienced from Revelstoke locals, which made the community feel welcoming.
While Peng is applying for her permanent residency and eyeing a future in Canada, being away from her family has been difficult. However, after explaining her decision, Peng’s family have begun to accept to her choice.
“They kind of understand because they know my personality [would] probably not fit in Taiwan, the working system is very stressful. The life balance is very tough in Taiwan,” Peng says. “My relatives asked me to go back to Richmond [where Peng has family]. But in my mind, and I’ve been here for three years, I kind of like the life here.”
Brooke emphasizes her love of the Revelstoke lifestyle. She has immersed herself in mountain life and is an active participant in several beloved local pastimes. In winter, she spends winters on her snowboard with friends at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. In the summers, she’s back in the mountains, taking hikes around the Revelstoke region.
Most of all she’s fallen deep for fishing and is growing her skills and knowledge of the good spots to catch trout are growing by the day. She’s even helped some newcomers into the pastime, helping demystify the complex fishing rules and regulations.
When Christian Urrego first heard of an opportunity to come to Canada, he thought it was a scam. It seemed too good to be true.
“Everything about the opportunities [to come to Canada] seem like a scam. We felt a lot of fear that this would be a scam,” Urrego elaborates. Despite gut uncertainty, Urrego departed his home in Cali, Colombia in December 2019, and his beloved wife, Sofia Hernandez. Urrego decided it would be best for her to wait in Colombia, while he made sure this opportunity was real. This decision was incredibly difficult for Urrego.
“We have a good relationship. We have a beautiful life. But these ten months, she [Hernandez] was alone in Colombia with her mother,” Urrego reflects solemnly. Hernandez had already faced upheaval, as she moved to Colombia from Venezuela five years before coming to Canada.
“I worked so hard because I needed some money for her, and for her mother, and to pay my bills,” Urrego says.
When Urrego saw firsthand the legitimacy of this new opportunity, he immediately arranged for Hernandez to join him. Initially, things went smoothly, and Hernandez was supposed to arrive in Canada on March 19, 2020. Shortly before her departure, the pandemic put the entire move on hold. Due to one strike of terrible timing, Hernandez could not come to Canada until October 2020.
Now, almost two years later, Urrego and Hernandez realize how much their lives have changed in Canada.
“It’s amazing because our minds changed so much. In Colombia, we lock all the doors. When we go outside, we feel fear,” Urrego reflects. “Now, we feel safe. We feel amazing.”
But, big changes involve challenges. Like many recent immigrants, Urrego and Hernandez were overwhelmed by the language barrier upon their arrival in Canada. However, supportive coworkers and ESL courses went a long way to eliminate the initial isolation.
“My boss taught me with so much passion,” Urrego explains, giving examples of helpful tips he learned from his coworkers at Zala’s Restaurant. “These helped me so much, and I feel like Zala’s is my family.” Luckily, Hernandez felt similar experiences from her coworkers; she is a housekeeper for Revelstoke Property Services. While our conversation was mostly limited to translations from Urrego and my own mediocre Spanish, Hernandez occasionally chimed in confidently; demonstrating her growing English vocabulary.
To cement their future in Canada, Urrego and Hernandez are working towards achieving their permanent residencies. Beyond working in the community and enjoying the outdoors, the couple are breathing in their newfound sense of safety.
“It’s a beautiful life,” says Urrego. “Growing here is different to what we lived with [in Colombia]. We lived in a big city that was prone to more violence. And here, it’s peace and love.”
 
 

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