Editorial: TR Means…

Trent Ernst, Editor
Back when Michael MacLaughlin was Economic Development Officer for the District of Tumbler Ridge, he created a program called “TR Means Treated Royally.”
The point of the program was to train front-line workers—waitresses at restaurants, front desk workers at hotels—customer service, because they were going to be the first face of Tumbler Ridge for many visitors.
The program was designed to teach people the basics of customer service. You know, things like being polite, being friendly, and not telling them “we don’t serve your f@$*ing kind here.”
Sadly, in a few quarters the discussion around miners coming from China has degenerated to this level. An unpublished comment on our website about the Murray River Project states: “These F@$*ing immigrants are going to wreak Tumbler Ridge. No one in Tumbler Ridge wants them here. Tumbler Ridge is 99 percent white town and should stay that way.”
And my heart breaks, just a little, under the weight of such ignorance; of such hatred. 
In my editorial a couple weeks ago, I toyed with the idea that some of the pushback that HD Mining is getting for their plan to bring in 201 Temporary Foreign Workers has nothing to do with the fact that they’re temporary or foreign, and has everything to do with the fact that they’re Chinese. 
This week, I’m going to come right out and say it: some people don’t want these workers here because they are scared. Not of losing their jobs to a skilled foreign workforce, but because they are “other.” Because the people who are coming will speak a different language and have a different colour skin. Some people, it seems are still xenophobes. It’s the Yellow Peril, it’s the Red Scare. It’s the fear of the big bad Asians with their awesome kung fu moves and bizarre cuisine. Watch out! They have durians! 
In the early 1900s, fear of the yellow peril lead to the Anti-Asiatic League, a group of businessmen who wanted to limit the number of passports and fishing licenses available to Japanese men, because they worked hard and thrived in their adopted country, becoming successful fishermen.  
In 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, and 22,000 Japanese Canadians (more than half of which were born in Canada) were sent to internment camps. Why? Simply because they were of Japanese descent. There were fears they were spies, or saboteurs, though there was no proof. Their property was taken and sold, leaving them with nothing. 
It is a sad moment in our history, but it is not the only one. Five years ago, two Temporary Foreign Workers in Fort MacMurray were killed in an accident. As the accident was investigated, it came out that the workers were being paid $600/month, a far cry from the $4,800/month they should have been paid. 
Yes, issues such as this should give us pause as to how the Temporary Foreign Worker programs work, and raise concerns on how these workers will be treated, both by the company, and by outside forces. Take, for example, the current concern that a recruiter in China is working on recruiting people to work for the mine, but is charging thousands of dollars to potential candidates. 
According the HD Mining, they are in no way linked to the recruiter, and while the incident is still under investigation, let’s take them at their word. What this means is that opportunistic vultures are swooping in and exploiting these people in the name of good mining jobs here in Tumbler Ridge. I worry that this won’t be the last time people try and take advantage of them either. 
Fortunately, the people who say that “Tumbler Ridge is 99 percent white and should stay that way,” are not in the majority. In fact, they might even be a small percentage of the population, but hear someone whisper the same thing enough times and it starts to affect you. You start to listen. You might even start to believe, or at least question your own stance. And you stand back and watch instead of stepping forward to welcome, and when they aren’t willing to step forward with the hand of friendship, you start to think that maybe those whispers were right. 
If we isolate them, if we allow them to be isolated, then the risk of exploitation increases. If we welcome them, and invite them to be a part of our community, we can help reduce the risk. Yes, maybe they won’t accept our invitations to be a part of this community. That’s their issue. But to ostracize a group of people simply because we are scared they might not respond in kind is the basest kind of intolerance.
So what say you, Tumbler Ridge? Does TR mean Treated Royally? Do we welcome all comers, no matter their race, colour, creed or union affiliation? Or does TR mean Totally Racist? It’s up to us to decide.