Vancouver Centre MP Dr. Hedy Fry delivered compelling comments about peace at the opening of LunarFest Vancouver celebrations. They came in a speech at Granville Island commemorating the January 22 arrival of the Year of the Rabbit.
Fry pointed out that this animal “is supposed to represent what we stereotypically consider feminine virtues”. The veteran MP maintained that those qualities include compassion, kindness, and peace-building in the community.
“The rabbit is the animal of peace and we need peace,” Fry said on January 20, before characterizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as illegal.
Then, the parliamentarian spoke about about the geopolitical situation in East Asia. Specifically, she mentioned the issue of Taiwan. It’s an independent East Asian island nation with its own elected president, flag, currency, constitution, and national legislature.
Despite this, the People’s Republic of China claims that “Chinese Taipei” (known to island residents as Taiwan) is a long-lost province. And Chinese president Xi Jinping has vowed to make Taiwan a part of his country. It’s raised fears that Xi might deploy military force across the Taiwan Strait, which separates the two countries.
“We need to ensure that Taiwan, and the Straits of China, the Taiwan Straits, are safe places—that we don’t have to worry that people could be afraid that somebody would come and invade their land and take away what they have,” Fry added.
She continued along those lines.
“We can talk about that here in Vancouver,” Fry insisted. “We can stand for that because we can show people that here—not only in Canada but specifically in Vancouver—that we, in fact, embrace togetherness.”
Fry highlights diversity of Lunar New Year artwork
In addition, Fry praised LunarFest Vancouver organizers for putting on an inclusive Lunar New Year event.
For example, at Ocean Artworks on Granville Island where she spoke, there are large Lunar New Year lanterns designed by Indigenous artists Richard Hunt and Rachel Smith. Beside them is another lantern by the creative director of the Punjabi Market Collective, Jessie Sohpaul. Students at Arts Umbrella designed other lanterns on-site.
In addition, there are lantern galleries at Jack Poole Plaza and šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square featuring designs by Métis, Indigenous, and other artists.
Moreover, the LunarFest annual concert, which takes place at the Orpheum Theatre on January 24, will showcase Ukrainian pianist Anna Sagalova. She fled the war in Ukraine by moving to Vancouver. Another performer is family folksinger-songerwriter and three-time Juno nominee Ginalina, whose parents are Taiwanese immigrants to Canada.
Fry said that Vancouver can show the world that even if people don’t like one another in their own countries, they can come to Canada and live in harmony and peace.
“That is what we stand for here in Canada, but most specifically, we see it in Vancouver every day.”
Moreover, she added, they can begin new relationships and even marry one another in Vancouver. That comment drew hearty applause from the audience. She also emphasized that Lunar New Year is not just about the East Asia community in Vancouver.
“It’s about all the people coming together,” Fry said.
Dignitaries echo MP’s message
Following Fry’s speech, the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Lihsin Angel Liu, spoke from the podium about how happy she is that Taiwanese culture is being reflected in the LunarFest Vancouver celebrations. She specifically cited artworks of the Paiwan tribe of Taiwan, which are on display this weekend at Ocean Artworks on Granville Island.
The exhibition, Colours of Formosa, demonstrates how Taiwanese artists rely on reusable resources to create colourful images from persimmon dye from Xinpu Township. This weekend, LunarFest Vancouver is also offering persimmon dye workshops by donation at Ocean Artworks at 3 p.m. Saturday (January 21) and 1 p.m. on Sunday (January 22).
In addition, Liu echoed Fry’s call for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Meanwhile, the MLA for Burnaby North, Janet Routledge, also praised Fry for speaking about peace at the event. Routledge mentioned that she had recently read comments by a Holocaust survivor on this subject.
“She said ‘War may end in people in death camps, but it starts with words.’ We have to be really careful about the worlds that we say to each other,” Routledge said.
In addition, Routledge praised the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association for highlighting the importance of imagination in its Lunar New Year events.
“I strongly believe that imagination is a very important political skill,” the MLA said. “It’s a very important leadership skill—because if we cannot imagine what a better world would look like, how can we build a better world?”
Granville Island plans cultural strategy
Another speaker at the event, Granville Island general manager Tom Lancaster, expressed pride in his staff for its role in bringing forward events that celebrate the diversity of the country.
“We provide the place and we provide the people to help us, but really, it’s organizations that come here and do this great work,” Lancaster said. “Now, it the opportunity to celebrate this. We are on the traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish people—the Squamish, the Musqueam, and Tsleil-Wau’tuth people.”
Lancaster also noted that this year, Granville Island will launch a new cultural strategy.
“It’s going to take us from where we have been, which is one of the most amazing diverse places in the world, to a new level…of partnership and celebration and festivals and all of the amazing things that you know this island to be,” he said. “We’re really going to embrace that and move forward with it.”
The final speaker, TD executive Kenneth Yuen, said that his bank is proud to sponsor Lunar New Year events like the one taking place at Granville Island.
“At TD, we believe that when people are included and empowered to participate in their communities, good things happen,” Yuen stated. “To me, Lunar New Year brings a lot of good things, such as delicious food, family gatherings, and, obviously, all the red-pocket money that I receive from my family. Heh heh.”
Then Yuen’s tone turned more serious. He added that in the coming year, people “need to draw on the kindness, luck, and peacefulness of the rabbit to make the most of this new beginning”.
“We hope the New Year brings good health, happiness, and prosperity.”