Activism and Assimilation: The Political Memoirs of Olivia Chow and Adrienne Clarkson
While the history of Chinese settlement in Canada is touted as an example of perseverance despite racist opposition and of socio-economic success under Canada’s immigration and multiculturalism policies, it is important to remember the very active role that Chinese Canadians played in their own trajectory. Throughout its history, the Chinese Canadian community has engaged in civic and political activism, on the one hand, and the promotion of positive stereotypes associated with assimilation into Euro-Canadian society on the other. Both of these approaches can be seen in the political memoirs of two prominent Chinese Canadian women: My Journey by Olivia Chow, a Member of Parliament who focused her career on a plethora of social justice initiatives; and Heart Matters by Adrienne Clarkson, a former Governor General who deemphasizes her Chinese heritage in order to mould herself into the ideal Canadian citizen. Despite these clear differences in political ideology and personal identity, both Chow and Clarkson’s memoirs reveal the ways in which Chinese Canadians can not only claim full belonging as Canadian citizens, but also interrogate systemic forms of racism and inequality.