China 100 Canada
"The Chinese character on our cover is
'Hua', meaning 'China'
an apt symbol for the blossoming of contemporary
Chinese-Canadian influence in the Lower Mainland."


"The Vancouver Sun presents this special tribute
to the influence and contributions of our region's Hua-ren
(meaning, literally, "China-people".)"

100 Influential Chinese-Canadians in B.C.
Meet some of the people of Chinese descent who strengthen our community
by Michael Scott, Vancouver Sun, Oct 21, 2006

The Chinese character, Hua, was drawn by Johnson Su-Sing Chow, 84, of Vancouver, specifically to be the emblem of The Vancouver Sun's 2006 profile of 100 influential Chinese-Canadians in the Lower Mainland. Chow, internationally revered as a master calligrapher and scroll painter, is also the subject of 18 foreign-language art books, and the author of many textbooks on the subject of Chinese painting. He has lived in Vancouver since 1980 and had a huge impact on the city's culture.

The first Chinese newcomer to reach what would soon become B.C. stepped onto a Victoria wharf in the early summer of 1858. He had travelled north by steamer from San Francisco, in search of a golden opportunity on the sandbars of the Fraser River. His arrival in the bustling colony was considered noteworthy enough to appear in the pages of the Victoria Gazette, as a harbinger of changes to come. And so indeed he was, followed close behind by a tidal influx of Chinese workers as the inhabitants of whole villages emptied out across the wide Pacific -- tens and tens of thousands, mostly men at first -- to pan the rivers, build the railways, stock the shelves and run the laundries.

History lost track of what became of that first "Chinaman," but his pioneering footsteps cleared a path for innumerable others.

Today, people of Chinese ancestry are the province's most populous ethnic minority, numbering almost 500,000 in the Lower Mainland. They wield immense influence on every aspect of our shared society. In field after field -- arts, politics, law, medicine, science, finance, business, religion, community affairs, philanthropy -- Chinese-Canadians have taken their rightful place as leaders and innovators.

In some ways, this is Canadian multiculturalism at its very best, a colour-blind gathering of talent and shared purpose. There's just one problem: For most of our history, we have been anything but colour-blind. It wasn't the Anglo-Europeans of British Columbia who had to fight for the right to belong, or who endured a century of racism of the most despicable and institutionalized sort. It wasn't the Anglo-Europeans who were reminded over and over, for generations, that they were different, lesser than other Canadians: required to pay taxes but not allowed to vote.

These dark facts make the contemporary accomplishments of Chinese-Canadians in B.C. all the more impressive. Not only have they distinguished themselves in so many ways, but Chinese-Canadians have done so against a background of racism and discrimination that only just began to abate in the second half of the 20th century. Prejudice has finally given way to politeness, but our divisive history lives on in the way the Anglo-European majority and the so-called Chinese community (actually not one homogenous group, but many sub-groups divided along linguistic, political and cultural lines) continue to conduct themselves as two solitudes: nodding acquaintances who sometimes still ignore one another.

Earlier this year, The Vancouver Sun's senior editors and writers began discussing new ways to reflect the depth and breadth of multicultural life in British Columbia. As a newspaper, we disagree with the old adage that good fences make good neighbours. In our experience, communities need ways to connect cultures, not separate them. In multicultural Vancouver, bridges make better neighbourhoods than fences do.

With that in mind, we present this special tribute to the influence and contributions of our region's Hua-ren (meaning, literally, "China-people," regardless of whether they were born overseas and arrived a year ago, or are the Canadian-born great-grandchildren of 19th-century immigrants). In the pages that follow, we profile 100 individuals whose talents and world views greatly enrich our shared life as British Columbians.

The Chinese character, Hua, which introduces this special feature, was brush-penned by Johnson Su-Sing Chow, 84, of Vancouver, specifically for The Vancouver Sun. Chow, who is revered internationally as a master painter and calligrapher, has lived in Vancouver since 1980. His contributions both to world art and to Vancouver's cultural life are acknowledged more fully inside these pages. The fact that he has been here for a quarter-century and has never received a mainstream museum exhibition is one small example of the two solitudes in action. To create our character, Chow used what is known as cursive or grass style calligraphy, an ancient brush style that prizes the free-flowing movement of hand and arm. While the original meaning of Hua is blossom, or flower, or flowering, nowadays it also usually connotes, in different contexts, the notion of China and of Chinese person, in the widest and most poetical sense -- including that of people from China, or people of Chinese descent, living abroad. We felt that this character and its layers of meaning create an apt symbol for the blossoming of contemporary Chinese-Canadian influence in the Lower Mainland....

Attempting to identify only 100 luminaries in a community of nearly 500,000 people, is of course going to be dogged by omissions, whatever criteria are applied. With that in mind, we invite readers to nominate their own influential Chinese-Canadians. A factbox at the end of this story will explain how to do that. In the process of interviewing the many people whose profiles are included here, one quality presented itself repeatedly. Perhaps it is a vestige of long-held Confucian principles, deeply laced into family memory; perhaps it is a result of personal style, but again and again our reporters noted the abiding humility of the people they were interviewing. No matter the accomplishments, no matter the distinctions and honours, many of the people we celebrate in these pages present a very un-Western lack of pretense to the world. Perhaps lawyer and vintner Eugene Kwan put it best. Formerly the managing director of the Hong Kong office of Stikeman Elliott -- one of Canada's leading law firms, senior counsel to some of the largest Asian investors in North America and a very active board member at VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation, Kwan was uncomfortable being part of this list. "You want to put me on a list of the 100 most influential Chinese-Canadians in the Lower Mainland," he asked. "Gosh, I don't know about that." A long pause. "If it were the 10,000 most influential, that I might just deserve to be on."...

excerpt above from 100 Invluential Chinese-Canadians in B.C.. VancouverSun, Oct 21, 2006


Canada pays Chinese Head Tax.VanSun/CTC, Oct 23, 2004 The federal government has begun to redress the head tax once applied to Chinese immigrants, handing out the first of the $20,000 cheques to be issued as compensation for those who paid the tax. Vancouver MP and International Trade Minister David Emerson, along with Canadian Heritage Minister Beverley Oda presented the cheques in Vancouver on Friday afternoon. "In spite of obstacles you persevered and helped build a better, stronger Canada for all of us," Oda said. "And as the prime minister said in June, before we can move forward together as Canadians and achieve our full potential we believe we must first lay to rest the past wrong of the head tax." Oda said it's important to learn from the mistakes of the past, make amends, and "begin to heal." Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology to Chinese Canadians on June 22 in the House of Commons for the head tax that was charged between 1885 and 1923. On Oct. 11, speaking to a group of Chinese immigrants, Harper said it is important that the payments come as soon as possible, while some of the immigrants who paid the tax to enter Canada are still alive. In the speech, Harper praised the Chinese community's contribution to Canada, including helping build the CP Railway. He called the tax a "moral blemish on our country's soul" and said the Canada of today wouldn't be possible without their contribution. "You are part of our family," Harper said.

Chinese Canadians have pushed for an official apology for decades. The head tax was brought in after Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act in 1885 -- levying a tax for every Chinese immigrant entering the country. The prime minister at the time, John A. Macdonald, had brought in Chinese immigrants to help build the cross-Canada railway. Once it was completed, however, the government moved to discourage Chinese immigration amid fears they were taking jobs from Canadians. The tax was set at $50 when it was first introduced in 1885, but it rose to $500 in 1903 -- then the equivalent of two years' wages. The head tax was eventually replaced by the Exclusion Act which came into effect in 1923. The Act - which remained in place until 1947 -- effectively barred immigration from China. Harper's official apology came as a relief to some, but for others it fell short of the mark. Vancouver's Community Care and Advancement Association president Johnny Fong, thanked Harper for the apology. "Your apology at the House of Commons this year has brought tremendous relief to so many in the community,'' Fong told Harper. The Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality, however, said Ottawa had been too slow to address the issue. "He only addressed point-six per cent of the head tax families -- less than one per cent -- of the head tax families that have survivors," the association's Sid Tan told The Canadian Press. "What he has done is rewarded the government for dragging its feet for over 20 years. Shame on them for that." It is believed there are about 400 surviving head-tax payers or their widows from an estimated 81,000 immigrants who paid the tax.

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~