With the federal election set for Monday a pair of Chinese-Canadians from the Lower Mainland say they are feeling more informed and prepared to vote after returning home from a self-guided tour around northern B.C.
Amy Xu said when the temporary restrictions for non-essential travel ended her friend, Roger Xiao, invited her on a group trip to learn about the history of Canada and the importance of reconciliation.
"As immigrants, we have to try to understand the politics and culture ... so we are lucky we had this trip to learn," Xu said, "I believe history is like a mirror or a textbook and one can learn from it so we don't fall into the same situation our ancestors experienced."
Xu and Xiao, along with about a dozen others, have all been living in Vancouver for more than a decade, but because they immigrated to Canada as adults, most of them have never received any education on the history of Canada and the residential school system.
"The purpose of this trip was to learn about the early Chinese labourers in the 19th century and understand the current living conditions of Indigenous people in B.C.," said Michael Cao.
Contributing 'our strengths' to Canada
The group, who are all in their 50s, left Vancouver at the end of August and made their first stop in Williams Lake, where Cao said he and his wife got a glimpse of how local people lived.
He said they enjoyed a dinner full of locally harvested food like moose meat, huckleberry and wild mushrooms with the local mayor, Walt Cobb, and another couple from the community.
"The community was so kind and welcoming. The couple gifted us some stones they collected and they were so generous," said Michael's wife Sandy.
After Williams Lake, he said they stopped in Prince George, and also took a tour around Barkerville, east of Quesnel, to learn about how the early Chinese-Canadians lived and worked during the gold rush. Then, they met with a local Indigenous artist who taught them about totem poles and the different historical events and people it represents.
"Indigenous people and new immigrants from China, we are all part of Canada. We want to be a part of this country so we need to know the history and then we can contribute our strengths to this country," said Sandy.
She said after two weeks of touring northern B.C., she's more confident in taking part in conversations about reconciliation and what Canadians can do to help.
"I think we are more open now. We would like to accept the history ... and realize the wrongdoing so we can work to improve it in consultation with Indigenous people."
Xiao said he believes Canada should be a nation that connects, supports and respects all ethnic groups.
"The trip was very rewarding and much more than I expected," Xiao added, "We see now how important politics is ... in making a better Canada and B.C."
He says he's grateful for the things they learned and experienced during their self-guided tour and are looking forward to taking what they've learned about Canadian politics and culture and making an informed decision at the polls on Monday.