Racist Clause in the BC Land Deeds
by Tatsuo Kage, Member, Greater Vancouver JCCA Human Rights Committee
It is well-known that in the prewar time, Asian residents including those of Japanese origin were discriminated against as second class citizens. For example, they were not allowed to register for the voters list, as a result, they were unable to vote or be elected to public office. They were also unable to obtain a licence to practice as doctors, lawyers or pharmacists.
They were also not allowed to purchase property in certain areas such as the British Properties. But it is less known that up to now such a provision still remains in thousands of land deeds as it was recently reported in the CTV Vancouver News, May 20, 2015. (bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-won-t-remove-no-oriental-clause-on-thousands-of-properties-1.2382873)
One of my friends, Mr. Bill Chu, a Chinese Canadian community activist, provided me with more information relating to this matter, including a sample document called “This Indenture” dated 1965 of a property in West Vancouver which includes the following two clauses: (a) and (i) :
(a) He [ i.e. purchaser] shall not sell, assign, or transfer said lands or any interest, therein to any person or persons of the African race or of Asian race or of African or Asian descendent and will not lease, let or sublet to any such person or persons the said premises or any part thereof or any building which may be on the said premises, or any part of such buildings; …
(i) No person of the African or Asiatic race or African or Asiatic descent (except servants of the occupier of the premises in the residence) shall reside or be allowed to remain on the premises.
According to Mr. Chu, such provisions are also included in the land title deeds in Sechelt, North Vancouver, South and East Vancouver. In 1985 the BC government made such provisions null and void by law. Still, these wordings are remaining in the documents of property ownership.
What would you feel if you see such provisions when you consider purchasing a property? According to Mr. Chu, some lawyers have indicated the impossibility in removing them. He also wrote to the Land Title Office which confirmed promptly that they could not remove or black out such clauses on affected deeds.
This is after all a matter of political will and decision. If the government supports such an action, it can be done even if it may be costly and time consuming.
Mr. Chu rightly points out: “Since in BC there is a vacuum in education on our shared history (rather than the history of just one race), most British Columbians do not realize the said clause did not come from nowhere but from BC’s century- long legislated discrimination against Asians. So it is no wonder the image of Asians as social outcasts and second class citizens was deeply engrained into the minds of many British Columbians, who then as a matter of fact added the discriminatory clause into their titles.” (A personal letter, dated June 20, 2015)
By lobbying, politicians may find a solution for this matter of discriminatory land title clauses. It will deal with a symptom of the issue, but may not lead to a true solution of something which is still bubbling under the surface.
As Japanese Canadians, we propose to work with other minority communities – individuals and organizations to look into this matter to find a lasting solution of the issue – racist remnants in our society and something bubbling under the surface which may suddenly erupt in future like a dormant volcano.