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Katrina Chen and Peng Lifa stand out as exemplars on a day when Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate

Katrina Chen from her Twitter feed
After steering through a new provincial childcare program, Katrina Chen has announced that she doesn't want to be considered for Premier David Eby's new cabinet. Photo by Katrina Chen.

By now, we know that incumbent Raphael Warnock won reelection in Georgia. This ensures that the Democrats will retain control over the U.S. Senate for the next two years.

While this may convince some Republicans to be a little less Trumpy in 2024, America still risks sliding into fascism. For more on that, I recommend this article by Royal Roads University scholar and author Thomas Homer-Dixon.

However, three news stories that utterly riveted me over the past 24 hours were local and in Asia—not south of the Canadian border.

Here in Vancouver, CTV reporter St. John Alexander revealed that six kids in B.C. have died of the flu over the past two weeks. Six kids! Words cannot express the grief that loved ones must be feeling.

Meanwhile in China, New York Times journalist Li Yuan reported that a man named Peng Lifa sparked the recent round of protests.

Peng did this by hanging a banner in central Beijing in October. It called for the ouster of President Xi Jinping.

Like many others in China, Peng is fed up with COVID Zero policies, but that’s not his only beef with the government. He’s disappeared from public view, likely because he’s in custody.

“In videos and images of the banners being hung, a person in an orange top and a yellow hard hat is seen fastening them to the side of the bridge while a column of smoke rises nearby, probably an attempt to draw the attention of pedestrians and drivers passing the busy intersection,” Li wrote in the New York Times. “A loudspeaker repeats the slogans that urged the public to fight for food, freedom, the right to vote and to remove Xi.”

Katrina Chen in Save-On-Foods

Then there’s Katrina Chen…

The third story capturing my attention involved B.C.’s minister of state for child care.

On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (December 6), Katrina Chen issued an astonishing public statement.

She disclosed that she’s survived gender-based violence more than once, including as a child.

“This longstanding trauma has continued to impact my life, even as I dedicated my time to my work in cabinet to deliver progress on child care for B.C. families,” Chen said. “I am incredibly proud of my journey. As an immigrant, I have represented our community in the legislature, and have worked with my colleagues to stand up the first social program in a generation.”

She emphasized that she needs time to focus on herself and her son. As a result, she’s asked Premier David Eby not to consider her for cabinet (even though she co-chaired his leadership campaign).

“I stand with all survivors of gender-based violence,” Chen declared.

A role model for B.C.

I recently interviewed Katrina Chen for Pancouver. She spoke about how she struggled as a new immigrant from Taiwan, who came to B.C. at the age of 17.

Chen also described how arts and culture served as a lifeline. Music helped her make new friends and adapt to her new life in Canada.

In addition, Chen revealed that she relied on children’s books to master English, which she speaks so confidently now from the podium.

On top of that, she discussed the challenges of adjusting to life as a single mother.

“I was alone here, other than my son,” Chen stated. “That was probably the biggest struggle I faced. But that being said, throughout that journey I am so grateful for the friends around me who are like family to me—and the support that they’ve provided to me.”

Through it all, she’s remained remarkably upbeat.

“So, yes, there are challenges,” she said. “I think every challenge comes with an opportunity. That’s what I tell myself.”

With her statement yesterday—and with all that she accomplished leading up to that point—Chen has emerged as a role model for B.C., just as Peng Lifa has become one in China.

In 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, Chen sang a stunning version of Avril Lavgine’s “Keep Holding On” with caucus colleague Bowinn Ma. Talented musician and NDP MLA Bob D’Eith accompanied them on piano.

In light of yesterday’s announcement, their performance below is even more poignant today.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.