Nov 11 – Chinese Canadian Veterans: My Uncle Dan

Rememberance Day, Nov. 11, 2004

I went to the Victory Square Cenataph ceremonies hoping to take pictures of my grand-uncle Daniel Lee, with his group of veterans, Pacific Unit 280.  For the past few years, Uncle Dan and his fellow executive member Ed Lee, from Unit 280, have helped to organize the Victory Square Cenataph ceremonies.  This is amazing, given the racist history of the Candian Government and Armed Forces that initially did not want Canadians born of Chinese ancestry in the armed forces.  When they returned from fighting overseas, they were insulted again when the Canadian Legions initially refused to allow them as members.  Much has now changed and the veterans of Unit 280 are proud to have served for both Canada and for enfrancisement rights for all Chinese Canadians.

I am very proud of Uncle Dan.  Not only does he spend weeks on cold street corners selling poppies, or talking to elementary schools.  He also devotes a lot of time to veterans causes.  So much that he was awarded the Award of Merit – The highest award that is given for community service amongst the veterans.  He received it in September 15th, at the 47th Dominion Convention of Army, Navy Air Force Veterans, held in Saskatoon SK.  He is the first Chinese Canadian to receive this particular Award.

To receive an Award of Merit, you must first recieve the Medal for Appreciation, which Uncle Dan recieved in 1987.  In 1999 he next recieved the Award for Service

Following the Victory Square Cenataph ceremony that went from 10:30am to 11:30am, I then walked to Chinatown with my friend Bob Brinson.  We found my father and his elder brother James who was visiting from Edmonton.  Uncle James has lived in Alberta for the past 40 years, and although he visits Vancouver regularly he had never attended a Vancouver Cenataph ceremony despite having served in WW2.

We all went to see the inaugural Rememberance Day ceremony at the Keefer St. Chinese Pioneer Memorial, which was scheduled to start at 12:30pm.  Uncle James was worried he wouldn't know some of the veterans, after almost 60 years after WW2.  But some of them recognized him, and asked him to join them standing in formation facing the monument.  He politely declined. 

The Chinatown Cenataph ceremony began with the arrival of City Cousellor Raymond Louie, himself a Chinese Canadian pioneer descendent relative of the H.Y. Louie family.  Raymond laid the wreath, sent by the City of Vancouver.  Interestingly, it was this very wreath that sparked the Chinatown ceremony. 

Last month, the City announced that it would lay a wreath at all the cenataphs including the Chinese Canadian pioneer memorial.  This sparked the necessity of a ceremony, which was coordinated between Unit 280 and the Chinese Canadian Military Museum.  Retired Colonel Howe Lee led the ceremony, and spoke to the crowd about the important role Chinese Canadian soldiers played in winning enfrancisement and voting rights for Canadian born Chinese.

There was a good media turnout that took pictures of the ceremony, including the wreath laying and interviewing some of the veterans.  Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, Counsellor Jim Green, and Parks Commissioner Heather Deal, arrived after the ceremony.  It was a surprise visit from them as they had participated in the Victory Square Cenataph ceremony, and no doubt had been busy socializing following the ceremony.  I contributing to the schmoozing and asked Mayor Campbell and Counsellor Green to be in a picture with my Uncle Dan.  Too bad I missed the photo op when Uncle Dan was showing Mayor Campbell his new Award of Merit. 

Following the ceremony, Pacific Unit 280 held their traditional lunch at Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant, which they enjoyed with their friends and supporters.  I was very pleased to be an active supporter and guest, and that so many of the vets recognized me and said hello to me.  They recognize me as my father's son, as their comrade Daniel Lee's grand nephew, and as one of their organizers of their veterans' dinner back in October.

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