(Vancouver Observer) Civil rights advocates push for equality at Rights and Freedoms March in Vancouver

VANCOUVER OBSERVER | Originally published April 16, 2016

On a sunny Saturday morning in False Creek, the famed Tuskegee Airmen, wearing bright red jackets mingled with Chinese Canadian veterans in navy blue. They joined locals who had gathered for the second annual Rights and Freedoms March in Vancouver.

 Richard Tolliver of the Tuskegee Airmen, centre. Photo by Jenny Uechi

Richard Tolliver of the Tuskegee Airmen, centre. Photo by Jenny Uechi

Inspired by the civil rights movement in the U.S., the march is held to celebrate the anniversary of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While Canada ranks as the second best country in the world for quality of life, issues like the suicide crisis on Ontario's Attawapiskat reserve and human trafficking are a grim reminder that not everyone has equal rights in Canada today. 

"A lot of people don't know really the history here...particularly recent immigrants," said George Eng, wearing a badge for the Pacific Unit 280. Formed in 1947, Pacific Unit 280 is comprised of Chinese veterans who returned from World War II, only to be rejected from joining the Royal Canadian Legion. 

"When World War II started, Chinese Canadians were not considered citizens. And yet, a lot of Chinese — 500 to 600 — volunteered to go fight for Canada. That's a history that can't be forgotten, because it's had a huge impact."

Eng explained that the war veterans, even upon return, then had to fight for their voting rights. For him, the Rights and Freedoms March is a way to commemorate the progress that has been made since then, but also to remember the deep inequality etched in Canada's laws less than 100 years ago. 

 

 George Eng. Photo by Jenny Uechi

George Eng. Photo by Jenny Uechi

Members of the Tuskegee Airmen, who had come to Canada for the march, had overcome near-impossible odds and systemic discrimination in the struggle for equal rights. 

The original Tuskegee Airmen were African-American pilots, navigators and crew, who made history during World War II by disproving a popular belief (backed by official reports) that black people were unfit for flying an airplane. The Airmen took on dangerous missions such as escorting bombers and protecting them from enemy fire. They were praised by the Allies for their role, even as they faced extraordinary prejudice after fighting for their country. 

 1945 photo of Tuskegee Airmen from Wikimedia Commons

1945 photo of Tuskegee Airmen from Wikimedia Commons

"It's very important to remember this, because even in years prior, with the problems and issues we had — there's still a current of that today," said Michael Webb of the Tuskegee Airmen. "We have to eradicate all of that. Every man and woman should be equal."

Read the rest of the article here

(The Georgia Straight) 2nd Annual Rights and Freedoms March

THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT | Originally published March 28, 2016

April 17th is the 34th anniversary of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter was intended to be a source of national values and unity, where Canadians share the fundamental principles of equal rights and justice. 

In that spirit, and of Dr. Martin Luther King, join us for a peaceful celebratory march beginning at 9:30am from Canada Line’s Olympic Village. We’ll be walking eastward along the seawall towards the Science Centre, around False Creek past Canuck Place, then arrive at David Lam Park. 

Joining in will be several civil rights activists that knew Dr. King. One person, now in his 90’s, is an original Tuskegee Airman. The march is inclusive and...Read More

(CBC NEWS & Podcast) Tuskegee Airmen, Chinese-Canadian veterans march in Vancouver: Robert Ashby, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, became a military pilot to prove a point

THE EARLY EDITION, CBC NEWS | APRIL 17, 2015

When Tuskegee Airman Robert Ashby decided to enlist for the Army Air Corps during the Second World War, he had two reasons.

First, at 17 years old, he was going to be drafted anyway, and he would rather, as a pilot, fly back to a bed after a mission than be part of the infantry that sleeps wherever the fighting is.

But more importantly, Ashby, an African-American man, wanted to prove a point.

"I was determined that we were going to prove we blacks can do anything anyone else can do," the now 89-year-old told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff. "We have the capabilities and we're going to prove that."

In December 1944, Ashby was sent to Tuskegee, Ala., to begin cadet training. He and a group of African-American pilots became known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviators in the U.S.

Marching together

On Friday, Ashby and other Tuskegee Airmen joined Chinese-Canadian war veterans and community leaders in Vancouver for the first annual Rights and Freedoms March, an event that that celebrates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Friday's march holds significance for the Tuskegee Airmen who defended their country and fought for their rights despite facing racial discrimination that forced them to use separate entrances, washrooms and drinking fountains at their air base.

Like the Tuskegee Airman, Chinese-Canadians also served their country at a time of widespread discrimination and prejudice at home.

"The main thing individuals should realize [is they should] start thinking of other individuals as individuals themselves, not a particular group or race or anything of that type," Ashby said.

"This was something that we had to put up with throughout our early days in America with segregation going on."

The determination and demeanour of the original Tuskegee Airmen are what inspired people like Dick Toliver to join them.

"[Ashby] and the original airmen indeed have paved the way," said Tolliver, a second generation Tuskegee Airman.

"They made it possible for those who came along some 12 or 15 years later to believe that yes, if he could do it, then I could do it."

To hear the full story, listen to the audio labelled: Tuskegee Airmen march in Vancouver

(POWELL RIVER DAILY NEWS) First annual Rights and Freedoms March Launches in Vancouver

POWELL RIVER DAILY NEWS | Originally published April 14, 2015

On April 17th, Canada’s first ever march for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will launch in Vancouver, BC. The march, sponsored in part by the Vancouver Observer, celebrates the anniversary of Canada’s Charter rights.
Japanese-Canadian internment during World War 11. Labelled “enemy aliens” Japanese-Canadians were forced from their homes and businesses and put into crude construction camps during World War 11. Pic Cred: rightsandfreedomsmarch.com website.
After difficult histories such as residential schools, the Chinese head tax, Japanese internment and Komagata Maru incident, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed equal rights and freedoms for all Canadian citizens, no matter what their colour or background.
But while the Charter gives Canadians equal rights in law, many Canadians still face ongoing discrimination in practice.

The Rights and Freedoms March will celebrate how far Canada has come so far, while recognizing that there’s still much progress to be made.
Organizers draw inspiration from the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whose struggle for equality changed the course of history.
Only 24 out of 376 South Asian migrants were admitted entry due to Canadian Exclusion Laws. Pic Cred:rightsandfreedomsmarch.com website.
“In parts of the world where many basic human rights are non-existent, we want to remind people how blessed we are in Canada,” said King Wan, ex-Canadian Force BC Liaison Officer and former Commanding Officer of HMCS Discovery.
The march will help shape a Canadian identity that is genuinely respectful of all its citizens, regardless of background.

Surviving poor conditions, lower pay and dangerous work on the railway was the norm for early Chinese migrants. Pic Cred:rightsandfreedomsmarch.com website.
The march takes place on Friday, April 17th at 9:30 am starting at the Olympic Village SkyTrain Station and walking to David Lam Park.
For more information, see the Rights and Freedoms March website or contact info@rightsandfreedomsmarch.com

(COAST REPORTER) Lost Canadians Leader Proud to March for Others Charter of Rights and Freedoms March

IAN JACQUES | COAST REPORTER | Originally published April 11, 2015

The leader of the Lost Canadians, Gibsons’ Don Chapman, says he is proud to march in Canada’s inaugural Charter of Rights and Freedoms March in Vancouver next Friday.

On April 17 at 9:30 a.m., citizens will march from the Olympic Village sky train station to David Lam Park in Vancouver.

The Rights and Freedoms March is a chance to celebrate how far Canada has come in the equal rights movement, while also recognizing that more work needs to be done.

Chapman was born in Vancouver, but lost his citizenship when he was six years old. He has been fighting for it ever since and fighting for other Canadians citizenship rights.

Lost Canadians are Canadian citizens who were stripped of their citizenship by arcane provisions of the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act.

The 1947 Act was based on old, archaic legislation that considered women and children chattel of their husbands or fathers. The original laws were written just after Confederation in the mid-1800s, and they weren’t corrected until the passage and implementation of Bill C-37 on April 17, 2009 — ironically it was the 27th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Here I became a leader of this cause, and you think ‘how crazy’ — a country that says it’s such a wonderful country, yet these discriminations are happening [here],” Chapman said. “You hear all of these stories, and after a while you come away and say, we can do better. This is a way that we can do better.

“We have come a long way, and we should be proud, but we have a long ways to go.”

Organizers of the Rights and Freedoms March are drawing inspiration from the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Their goal is to expand King’s words and deeds outside the United States by having Vancouver as its first international city to host this march.

“Everyone is welcome. We want this to go nation-wide — this is a very Canadian march and every year we should go out and reaffirm our rights and our freedoms,” Chapman said.

Learn more about the march at: www.rightsandfreedomsmarch.com.

- See more at: http://www.coastreporter.net/news/local-news/lost-canadians-leader-proud-to-march-for-others-1.1818505#sthash.Y10ccY0I.dpuf

(THE PROVINCE) Witness to U.S. civil rights violence joining inaugural Vancouver Rights and Freedoms march

KENT SPENCER, THE PROVINCE | Originally Published APRIL 5TH, 2015

American Dick Toliver lived under the shadow of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama 50 years ago, amid lynchings and cross-burnings.

Now, he’s coming to Vancouver on Friday, April 17 to lend his presence to the city’s inaugural Rights and Freedoms March.

“The Vancouver march is a statement for the rights and freedom of people,” said Toliver, 76, a retired U.S. air force colonel. “I want to join our patriots in Canada.”

March organizer Don Chapman said the walk around False Creek will pay homage to the racial abuses suffered by aboriginals, Chinese, Japanese and Sikhs in this country.

April 17 was chosen because it will be the 33rd anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which safeguards citizens’ human rights.

Toliver was a veteran of one of the most notorious freedom marches of all time.

March 7, 1965 in Selma, Ala., is known to history as “Bloody Sunday”; he found himself among the marchers at the Edmund Pettus bridge by accident.

“I didn’t know they were planning a demonstration,” he said.

Stationed in Selma at a nearby air force base, where he was training to become a jet pilot, the commander had warned him to stay out of the city. But the family’s baby was sick and needed medicine.

“I shouldn’t have been anywhere near there,” he said.

“Boisterous white men with clubs” swore at him as his car neared the scene. Soon, a violent assault began on the unarmed crowd. It was aided by vicious police dogs, clubs and horseback-mounted men.

“The images go down as the most horrendous I’ve ever witnessed,” Toliver told The Province recently.

“I could hear screaming and see tear gas rising. Guys on horseback were swinging clubs into the crowd. Civilians were invited to join in. It was a free for all.”

Toliver was tempted to “inflict pain” on the attackers but said it would have been “suicidal” and “unjustifiable.” He drove back to the base.

“My rage left me speechless and in tears. (My wife) Peggy did all she could to calm me down,” he said.

The incident changed history. Under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, two subsequent marches took place at the bridge and three months later U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Toliver spent a long time digesting his horrific experiences and now sees them in a different light.

“It took quite some time to get over Selma and see it as a positive experience rather than one of excruciating pain,” he said. “It honed my resolve to face whatever would come in the future.”

Toliver flew 446 combat missions over Vietnam and now lives in Goodyear, Ariz.

The Vancouver march will start at the Olympic Village skytrain station and go to David Lam Park. It begins at 9:30 a.m.

“Canadians have no idea how hard some people have had to fight for their human rights,” said Chapman.

To find out more, go to rightsandfreedomsmarch.com.

kspencer@theprovince.com

twitter.com/@kentspencer2

© Copyright (c) The Province

(BREAKINGNEWS.CA) First annual Charter of Rights and Freedoms March to Launch in Vancouver

Breakingnews.ca | Originally published April 4, 2015. 

Join the first annual Rights and Freedoms March to celebrate the anniversary of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On April 17, Canada’s first ever march for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will launch in Vancouver, B.C. The march, sponsored in part by the Vancouver Observer, celebrates the anniversary of Canada’s Charter rights.

After difficult histories such as residential schools, the Chinese head tax, Japanese internment and Komagata Maru incident, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed equal rights and freedoms for all Canadian citizens, no matter what their colour or background.
But while the Charter gives Canadians equal rights in law, many Canadians still face ongoing discrimination in practice.

The Rights and Freedoms March will celebrate how far Canada has come so far, while recognizing that there’s still much progress to be made.

Organizers draw inspiration from the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whose struggle for equality changed the course of history.

“In parts of our world where many basic human rights are non-existent, we want to remind people how blessed we are in Canada,” said King Wan, ex-Canadian Force B.C. Liaison Officer and former Commanding Officer of HMCS Discovery.

The march will help shape a Canadian identity that is genuinely respectful of all its citizens, regardless of background.

When: April 17, 9:30 a.m.
Where: Olympic Village SkyTrain Station to David Lam Park
For more, see the Rights and Freedoms March website. For more information, contact info [at] rightsandfreedomsmarch [dot] com.

 

(VANCOUVER OBSERVER) First annual Charter of Rights and Freedoms March to launch in Vancouver

BY VANCOUVER OBSERVER | originally published APRil 1ST, 2015

 

On April 17, Canada's first ever march for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will launch in Vancouver, B.C. The march, sponsored in part by the Vancouver Observer, celebrates the anniversary of Canada's Charter rights.

After difficult histories such as residential schools, the Chinese head tax, Japanese internment and Komagata Maru incident, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed equal rights and freedoms for all Canadian citizens, no matter what their colour or background.

But while the Charter gives Canadians equal rights in law, many Canadians still face ongoing discrimination in practice.

The Rights and Freedoms March will celebrate how far Canada has come so far, while recognizing that there's still much progress to be made.

Organizers draw inspiration from the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whose struggle for equality changed the course of history.

"In parts of our world where many basic human rights are non-existent, we want to remind people how blessed we are in Canada," said King Wan, ex-Canadian Force B.C. Liaison Officer and former Commanding Officer of HMCS Discovery.

The march will help shape a Canadian identity that is genuinely respectful of all its citizens, regardless of background.