Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, on May 4, I was invited to
Whitehorse to attend Café Daughter, a play by
playwright Kenneth T. Williams, who is from the Gordon First
Nation, in Saskatchewan. The play was loosely based on my
Honourable senators, it was a great honour to serve as
the inspiration for Café Daughter. The main
character, on the eve of her graduation, remembers her
childhood growing up as the daughter of a Chinese café
operator and a Cree mother. Like me, the main character is
told by her mother never to tell anyone she is partly Cree
Indian; in other words, to keep her Cree heritage a secret.
Despite the odds, the main character becomes a doctor.
The play deals with racism, sexism, alcohol abuse,
bullying and residential schools, but balances these serious
issues with many humorous scenarios. Ken does a magnificent
job of taking on difficult issues and putting them out in
the public in a way that the public can feel and learn about
these sorts of things.
Café Daughter has traveled throughout the Yukon.
It was also shown in high schools and a study guide was
written to help educate young people about respecting other
cultures, residential schools and so on.
While Café Daughter is a fictional memory play
based on my experiences, its themes are much broader. It
explores what Canadian identity is and how this is affected
by social mores, which are at times expressed in
discriminatory legislation such as the Indian Act. It also
incorporates the Saskatchewan law that prevented Chinese men
from hiring White women.
While discriminatory legislation placed severe
limitations and hardships on the lives of my parents, they
worked hard and never gave up. I owe my strong sense of
determination to them. From my perspective, the play Café
Daughter is a tribute to my parents, who wanted the best
for their daughter but never could have imagined that she
would become a scientist, let alone a senator.
Café Daughter won the Bob Couchman Theatre Awards
for outstanding play of 2010-11. Actress Paula Jean Prudat
won Outstanding Female Performance and the play's director,
Yvette Nolan, won Outstanding Director.
P. J. Prudat did a truly amazing job of playing 11
different characters — flawlessly. Even her portrayal of my
Chinese father was spot on.
I look forward to seeing Café Daughter being
produced in other parts of the country.
Honourable senators, please join me in extending
congratulations to Kenneth T. Williams, the playwright;
actress Paula Jean Prudat; director Yvette Nolan; the
co-directors of the Gwaandak Theatre, Patti Flather and
Leonard Linklater; and the rest of the crew for their
outstanding work in producing Café Daughter.