Senator fought to overcome discrimination

October 17, 2011

REGINA — Senator Lillian Eva Quon Dyck’s heritage is aboriginal and Chinese. Throughout her life she has fought discrimination and racism to achieve distinction as a university professor and appointment to the Canadian Senate in 2005.

Dyck told her story at the Luther Lecture Sept. 26 at Luther College, University of Regina.

Dyck set the stage for her talk with statistics that showed the differences between aboriginals and women, especially aboriginal women, and non-aboriginals in academia and the workplace.

“We’ve come a long way,” she said, “but we’re not equal yet.”

To put a human face on the statistics she told her story and that of her family.

Her mother was Cree and her father a Chinese immigrant.

Chinese men, according to a federal law which lasted from 1912 to 1969, were not allowed to hire white women and, from 1923 to 1948, Chinese were not allowed to come to Canada.

The men already here became “bachelors.” It was an opportunity for Indian women to marry Chinese men. Her mom’s message to her children was “Pretend you’re Chinese and don’t go back to the reserve.”

Subtle discrimination was the norm as Dyck fought her way up. She was often told she could not do something and she was not as good as a man.

The biggest challenge for victims in fighting discrimination is recognizing the wrongdoers and expecting them to stop.

“If you complain, it gets worse,” said Dyck.

She outed her tormentors by constant complaining until finally someone listened.

She learned to be proud of who she is, she told the audience. “Discovering my self-pride made me strong.”

She ended her presentation by showing photos of her family, describing the women as beautiful and elegant.

“Finally, I see their footprints and know that I am on the right path. Dreams of gender and racial equality can come true if we continue to believe in them and fight for them.”