by Andru McCracken
On January 23 a man came into the Shell gas station where Patricia Blake was working and asked her how long she had been in Canada.
“I tell him I just got here last night and I’m on the run,” said Blake.
The man asked whether she is Filipino, Korean, Chinese or Hawaiian.
“I say I’m a mix, a little bit of each,” she said.
Then the man asks for her name and information.
“I point to my name tag and say no more,” she said.
She goes outside and overhears the man making a call.
“He’s saying there’s an immigrant on the run here at the Shell, ‘Can you please come and get her, she’s dangerous.’”
The police didn’t show up. Blake laughs recalling the incident. She posted the story to Facebook in all caps shortly after the same morning.
Blake is not an immigrant or a temporary foreign worker. She is from Old Crow, Yukon.
According to Blake, Old Crow could teach Valemount some lessons. Old Crow is a community of 280 residents and there is no road access.
“Everyone treats you as family. There is no, ‘Oh, you’re white, you’re Korean,’” said Blake.
As we chatted about the incident a few days later, a man came in off the highway for gas. The exchange was polite. A local woman came in for cigarettes and the exchange was very familiar, even sweet.
Blake works the early shift at Shell and, for four hours a day, she’s the only person in the building. Racism or ‘rudeness,’ as Blake calls it, is nothing new.
She says she experiences rudeness from both locals and tourists, and while she is game to handle it, she can see it wear on her Filipino co-workers.
“Customers will throw money on the counter or ask, ‘Is there a white person working here?’”
Blake said in those cases they send the dissatisfied customers to the Esso, a joke on her part, because the Esso is run by an Indian family.
“I usually just have fun with it,” she said.
Asked if she ever feels unsafe, Blake said that at the moment hotel construction workers from next door often come in and check on her and the other employees.