Jada Yee found his balance after he accepted his dual identity
- NC Raine | August 30, 2023
What Jada Yee once thought of as a limitation − he now embraces as a strength.
He has carved out a place for himself in the province.
Yee is not only the first civilian appointed as chairperson for the Regina Police Service’s Board of Police Commissioners he is also director of business for File Hills Qu’Appelle Developments and a lecturer at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv).
But, there was a time when he didn’t think he belonged anywhere.
“I felt I was too Chinese for Indigenous people, and too Indigenous for Chinese people,” said Yee. “I really struggled with that while growing up. I didn’t know where I fit in. That weighed heavily on me.”
As an Indigenous-Chinese, he found his place only after he began to understand and accept, himself.
Yee’s struggle with self-acceptance led him to dropout of high school and he floated from job-to-job before giving school another shot. He enrolled at FNUniv compelled partly by a desire to learn more about his identity.
“I learned [from Elders] that even though I come from two different cultures, to be proud of both of them,” he said. “I look at them now, and see I am a product of two amazing cultures, [which] are very similar in many ways.”
Around the time he was bouncing from job-to-job, Yee’s now wife, Kristi, encouraged him to take a part time job as a security guard at Casino Regina. While there, Yee quickly climbed the ranks to become a casino manager by his mid-20s.
He said a University of Regina trip to Toluca, Mexico to study Indigenous populations completely altered his way of thinking.
“That trip changed my life,” said Yee. “I was probably one of the youngest casino managers at the time – I had an ego. People were telling me I was the best thing that happened to the casino, and I bought that.”
While in Mexico, he began to connect to the Indigenous worldview.
“I learned more about other Indigenous people’s ways of thinking, what drives them, and their view of life,” said Yee. “It’s not about wealth, it’s about what you’re doing for your family, your people, and your kids.”
Now, a father of four and husband, he infuses lessons and humility into everything he does.
As the board chair for the Police Commission, Yee says one of his priorities is to be a voice to represent all communities, particularly Indigenous and underrepresented people.
Because he is arms length away from municipal politics it provides him with a unique insight into who he represents and how he represents them.
“Being a civilian is different from politicians because there’s no agenda,” said Yee. “That’s why it’s important, to me, to have a diverse board. With a politician, the waters could get muddy with agendas.”
In other two hats he wears at FHQ and FNUniv, his focus is to build up those around him.
He said the FHQ team works diligently to change the minds of big corporations when it comes to hiring and investing in Indigenous people.
For Yee, it’s all about passing on the gifts that helped change his life.
“It’s that circle of life,” he said. “I’ve learned so much that I want to give back. I learn so I can teach. I want to do for these amazing Indigenous people what my professors did for me.”
Yee says he’s constantly learning things about both his cultures. It’s this embracing of his roots, and his family, that keeps him pushing to make the world a better place.
“If I can make a difference in one person’s life, then I’m happy,” he said. “At the end of my life, I want to look back and say, ‘I left this a better, safe, place for my children and grandchildren.’ ”