Monthly Archives: March 2005

Tales of an Urban Indian – great play at the FIRE HALL Arts Centre

Go see the play Tales of an Urban Indian at the Firehall Arts Centre.

Tales of an Urban IndianWritten by and starring
Darrell Dennis

March 2 – 12, 2005Insightful! Hilarious! Powerful! Tales of an Urban Indian is created by and starring the well known Second City performer and zany host of APTN’s Bingo and a Movie, Darrell Dennis.

I saw the play last week on opening night and I thought that actor
Darrell Dennis was extremely funny and serious in his one person
play.  He definitely touches on all the positive and negative
experiences of what it is like being an urban indian, drawing on
personal and shared/communal experiences.

The opening features a slide show of traditional and stereotypical
depictions of First Nations people, that slides into cartoons and
playboy charicatures. 

“Now that we've got that out of the way…” says Dennis, he tells
what it was like growing up on a Reserve, moving to the city as a
child, then moving back to the Reserve.

“Tell us again, what are White people like,” they beg the new story
teller, as all the other kids have only seen White people on tv

Comedy turns to achievement, then tragedy, and finally
redemption.  It's a great story, and gives you a wonderful way to
experience what it is like walking in the shoes of an urban indian.

Tickets are $14 – $22 and are available at the Firehall Box Office,
604-689-0926 or online at

Barb Lee and Vancouver Asian Film Festival in Vancouver Sun today

Asian Film festival faces annual struggle: Founder Barb Lee still runs the event as a volunteer, though it now has some sponsors

-by Lynn McNamara – Vancouver Sun

Check out page D1 and D2 of Today's Vancouver Sun for Monday March
7th.  It's a story about the struggles of the VAFF, in a setting
where we should have more support for a Film Festival that shows
positive roles for Asian actors, and especially shows North American
made films made by North American Asian actors (yes – there are such
things… My great grand Uncle Luke was an actor in old
Hollywood in movies with Gary Cooper and Katherine Hepburn, Clark Gable
and Bela Lugosi.) 

Hopefully the VAFF can access some of BC Renaissance grant money
coming to the BC Arts Council to create and endowment fund for the
VAFF.  Barb Lee points out that while the Toronto Film
Festival recieves $20,000 to $30,000 from the Canada Council every
year, Vancouver recieves only $3,000 to $5,000.

Barb Lee is an amazing person – truly!  She has a vision to
create a film festival that highlights Asians in film – in
English.  And to show films made by and featuring Canadians and
Americans of Asian ancestry – not just imported films from Asia. 
Barb has an energy and a presence that betrays her tenacity and resolve
to create her dream.  We were both paid a high compliment last
year, by Jane Chalmers, Director of CBC Radio English Language
Programming at a CBC breakfast meeting for leaders in the Asian
community.  Jane said that we had both caught CBC's attention, and
that they were watching us.  Now the next step is to create some
story proposals for CBC and help further integrate the history and
issues of Canadians who just happen to be of Asian ancestry.

When I was a teenager the only Asians I saw on television were Hop
Sing, the Chinese cook on Bonanza and the housekeeper/Nanny on The
Courtship of Eddie's Father.  Once on Bewitched, a siamese cat was
turned into a human which I think was played by Nancy Kwan.  And
then there was always Kung Fu, or The King and I, where Asians were all
in the supporting roles.  So… domestics, villans, dragon ladies
and china dolls… until Bruce Lee came along, and changed Asian cinema

There are so many Chinese-CANADIAN organizations now in Vancouver
that promote and explore Canadian-born artists of Asian ancestry, such
as Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, and the Vancouver Asian Canadian
Theatre, ExplorASIAN festival by the Vancouver Asian History Month
Society and many others… that it really may be time for us to
create a Asian Canadian Arts Alliance, and help to develop each other's
audience and share ideas and resources.  We have been doing
precisely this, with Rice Paper Magazine, ACWW, Asian Heritage Month
and Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  By working together and piggybacking
our events and marketing, we find we are able to accomplish more while
sharing resources.


Look for a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat float in the Vancouver St. Patrick's Day Parade – March 13,2005

I just picked up the St.Patrick's Day Parade package for Vancouver's Celtic Fest 2005, to be held Sunday, March 13th 2005. 
Steve McVittie is Grand Parade Marshall and a pretty cool guy.  He
is proprietor of Celtic Treasures on Dunbar St. 

Steve loved that I put a dragon boat as a float in the 2004 parade, and
kept after me to make sure the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat float
returned for 2005.  “It was one of the better floats that people
talked about.  It's important to be multicultural and to have
these elements in the parade, ” Steve told me.  This parade is
about being Canadian.  We leave all the politics behind and
celebrate what this country has to offer.  Where else can you do
that?  Vancouver is one of the most non-Irish cities – but
everybody celebrates St. Patrick's Day!”

For 2004, Bob Brinson helped me put a Taiwanese dragon boat on a
trailer, which I towed in a rented pick up truck.  For the parade,
Joe McDonald and his Brave Waves
band mate Andrew Kim sat in the dragon boat playing bagpipes and
electric guitar from start at Drake Street to the finish at Hastings
Street.  Along the way dragon boat team members Tracy Wong and Jen
Yeung waved the flag and the paddles.  We were also accompanied by
Highland dancers taught by  Angus MacKenzie.  For the full
story and photos that featured a flat tire see 2004 St.Patrick's Day Parade.

For 2005, the Gung Haggis Fat Choy float will again feature a Taiwanese
dragon boat.  Vancouver city counsellor Ellen Woodsworth will be a
guest and wave to people from the front of the boat.  Maybe we
will give her a flag to wave or a drum to beat, or teach her how to climb onto the dragon head.  Musicians will again be featured on the boat.  It might be Brave Waves, or it might be Dragon River
I am also looking forward to creating the first ever Dragon Boat
Paddler Marching Drill Team, as I plan to lead team members and
volunteers through paddle drills holding green paddles!

Chinese Head Tax Redress: Recent letters to the Editors for Vancouver Courier and Shared Vision articles

Here are recent letters to the editor that have appeared in the Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Courier and Shared Vision magazine regarding their recent articles on Redress for the Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act (1897 to 1947).

Vancouver Sun, March 2, 2005
Letters: Liberals float a red herring on redress 
There are still seniors alive who paid the racist head tax and targeted by legislation separating families. They and their descendants should be the focus of any redress settlement and also dictate the terms of community compensation. 
Given that the Japanese Canadian redress did not incur any liability with individual pay-outs and community compensation, why would it be different for Chinese Canadians?
The obvious conclusion is Conservative Brian Mulroney's justice depatment lawyers for the Japanese Canadian redress are smarter
than Liberal Paul Martin's for a Chinese Canadian redress. Or is the liability issue cited by Multicultural Minister Raymond Chan a poor excuse?
Sid Chow Tan, director

Original article, Settling the Score February 2005

Shared Vision, March 2005 
Letters: Head Tax Not Just a Chinese Issue 

I am a fifth-generation Vancouverite. My grandfather paid the head tax, my great-grandfather paid the head tax. I had the pleasure to talk with filmmaker Karen Cho ( In the Shadow of Gold Mountain ), and I was amazed when she told me that the British/white side of the family was more angry about the head tax than the Chinese side of the family.

My cousins have all been marrying non-Chinese people, mostly of Scottish, Irish, or English ancestry.
We have fifth-, sixth- and seventh- generation descendents who are only one-quarter Chinese.
We have First Nations children whose great-great-grandfather had to pay a Chinese head tax.
This is no longer a Chinese issue—it is a
Canadian issue. When the Canadian government finally realizes there are non-Chinese Canadians demanding head-tax redress for their grandfathers and great grandfathers, maybe then they will wake up.
How many generations will it take to inter-marry into the families of Canadian politicians?

Todd Wong, Vancouver


original article: Chinese Says Apology Long Overdue

Vancouver Courier, February 13,

Letters: Canada owes Chinese justice

Happy Lunar New Year and many thanks for your story on Daniel  Lee's
efforts to seek an apology for the racist head tax on
Chinese immigrants from 1885 to 1923 (“Chinese senior says apology
long  overdue,” Feb. 17).

It enriches our country when elders such as Daniel
Lee speak up  for a redress that tests Canadian laws and
conscience. All Canadians should be inspired by this.

Since 1984, over 4,500 head tax payers, spouses and
descendants, each representing a head tax certificate, have asked
the Chinese Canadian National Council to represent them in seeking
not only an apology, but a symbolic return of a portion of the
head tax money collected.

Where possible, the money should be returned to
individuals and families who paid it. The present day valuation of
the head tax collected would exceed a billion dollars. In the early
1900's, the $500 could buy two houses in Chinatown. Keep in mind
the CCNC seeks a refund of head taxes paid, not compensation for their

The Canadian government unjustly enriched itself by
$23-million with a law to initially deter and then profit from
Chinese immigration. That was close to the cost of building the
Canadian Pacific Railway, which tied together a coast to coast
confederation called Canada. So not only did Lo Wah Kiu (old
overseas Chinese) forbears build the most difficult and dangerous
last 300 miles of the railway, they paid for all of it!

The few living head-tax payers are in their 90s so
redress is urgent if  they are to see it. We hope Prime
Minister Paul Martin will finish his father's work to redress this
racist chapter of Canadian history. In 1947, the elder Paul
Martin, as Secretary of State, brought forth in the Commons the
Canadian Citizenship Act, which allowed the Chinese, then with 
“domestic aliens” status even if born here, to become citizens.

No amount of money can take away the hurt, angst and
oppression of Lo Wah Kiu heroes and heroines who endured and
prevailed over 62 years of targeted racist legislation. However, a
redress which commemorates them and their achievements is a start.
Along with an apology, we are  asking for what any Canadian
would want- refund of an unjust tax and   amends for the
racist family-separating exclusion. Where there are no claimants, the
money could start a foundation for education and research to end

Justice now. It's only fair.

Sid Chow Tan, director
Chinese Canadian National Council

Opera Nights at the Pan Pacific Hotel with Heather Pawsey

Heather Pawsey – noted Canadian soprano has performed at Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner events for 2004 and 2005.

She will be Just at the Pan Pacific Hotel
(Cafe Pacifica)

Sat. March 5 and next Friday night, March 11, starting at 7:15 p.m. 

The buffet is $42/person and includes a huge cold buffet, four hot
main courses, a made-to-order pasta bar, a dessert buffet and, of
course, live opera arias and duets!

March 4th – Harry Aoki's First Friday Forum features Sean Gunn and Running Dog Lackeys

Harry Aoki presents First Friday Forum
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Friday, March 04, 2005
Nikkei Heritage Centre
Kingsway and Sperling,

Harry Aoki & Guests perform a blend of musical,
cultural and intellectual fusion and forum.
The theme is in support of Chinese Canadian Redress.
Update on the campaign by Sid Tan, representative
of the Chinese Canadian National Council’s campaign
for Head Tax redress.

This March 4th show features The Running Dog Lackeys.
Expect Sean Gunn to perform and sing his song
“Head Tax Blues” featured in the Karen Cho film
“In the Shadow of Gold Mountain.

I think this will be especially poignant, as Harry
himself was interned during WW2 as a Canadian born
of Japanese heritage, as his family’s home was
confiscated and they were shipped out of Vancouver.
Harry loves ethno-fusion music and how cultures share
and evolve. He created an album titled Haida Dawn, and
was a music coordinator for the Edmonton Commonwealth Games.

This concert is suitable for all ages.
Admission is free - Donations are appreciated.

Is being an ethnic Canadian a 50/50 split? or is being multicultural 100% x ethnicity(s) + 100% Canadian?

Is being an ethnic Canadian a 50/50 split? or is being multicultural 100% x ethnicity(s) + 100% Canadian?

What percentage do we consider ourselves ethnic? or Canadian? 
This idea presented itself to me while I was sitting on the CRTC
judicial hearing for Planet Radio presented by CHUM.  I was invited to be part of the Planet Radio community advisory committee by Prem Gill, host of ColourTV, a weekly show on CityTV about diversity in culture.

The CRTC vice-chair
was labouring over questions about Planet Radio's proposals of what
percentage of the music programming would be in English or French
language vs non-English or French.  Planet Radio proposed a
minimum of 20% music programming for non-English or French, while 35%
programming would be Canadian.

It is important to address the fact that the panel was 100% visibly
white.  While some CRTC judges may be francophone or part First
Nations, that doesn't necessarily make them appear visibly any less
white.  English is just the official language of Canada, as is
French.  You can be 100% Anglophone, 100% Francophone, and 100%
Canadian – just as Pierre Trudeau was, as his father was
French-Canadian and his mother was Scottish/English Canadian. 
Even CHUM interactive Vice President Roma Khanna and I speak better
French than Hindi or Chinese, that's just how Canadian we are.

ethnic population feels the same about our individual
multi-heritage:  There are no rules or definitions how we classify
ourselves such as being 20% Anglophone, 20% French, 10%
aboriginal, or 50% Chinese… unless you are applying to be a Status

Ndidi Cascade was also
part of the advisory committee with me.  While her father was
Nigerian and her mother Irish and Italian, she is NOT 50% African, 25%
Celtic, 25% Mediterranean.  She can be 100%
Nigerian-Canadian, 100% Irish-Canadian; 100% Italian-Canadian, which
all adds up to 100% Canadian.  We are truly more than the sum of
our ethnic DNA cells. First Nations musicians singing in their
aboriginal tongue is neither English or French – do we classify them as
“foreign language?”  Canadians born of Asian or African heritage,
sing about their cultural ancestry in English – do we classify them as
non-global, or English language?

We don't live our lives by
saying it is 4pm, time to be Chinese for an hour.  We draw on all
of our life and cultural experiences throughout the day – just like our
musical programming.  Take Robbie Robertson, Angelique Kidu, Les
Nubians, Nelly Furtado, Bebel Gilberto, Tan Dun, Buffy Sainte-Marie,
Curtis Clear Sky and put them in the cd play and just hit “shuffle”.

We are now post-multiculturalism.  30 years ago, there were no
radio stations catering to the Vancouver ethnic immigrant
populations.  CRTC would never have granted an individual licence
to address the Canadian born Chinese population for a Co-op Radio
program like “Pender Guy
about Chinese Canadian youth issues – but it still played an important
part in the evolution of Chinese Canadian culture.  
Multiculturalism wraps every ethnic group up in a little
box and orders it in little pigeon hole stereotypes for easier

Asian Canadians are now 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and even 7th generation Canadians like my Chan family descendents.
Many of us are now inter-racially married.  We are
now all part of the mainstream – and yet are still marginalized as
the radio licences are given to new immigrants to address new immigrant
issues.  Our music scene has changed, the technology has changed,
and radio programming must change to meet the concerns of youth and
aboriginal culture and our changing Canadian culture.

Canadians speak English – so it's harder to find us through ethnic
media and communication channels.  We are the “invisible”
visible-minority.  We are inter-cultural, proud of our ancestry
while sharing the diverse cultures of each other, and also perhaps of
our 4 differently diverse grand parents.  Traditional immigrants
tend to predominately remember the culture as it was when they left
their homeland. This is why the many Chinatowns, Japantowns, Little
Italy's and Little India's all seem to be stuck in time. But cultures
evolve, they change, they morph, they mix, and they integrate. 
That is why the Silk Road in Asia was so important – all the cultures
exchanged information, rather than institute isolationist policies
where you could only speak one language or address one culture at a

100% English speaking, 100% ethnic Chinese-Canadian, 100% West Coast, 100% global, 100% Canadian – that's me!

Planet Radio – Exploring Vancouver's Global sound – Check out this proposal by CHUM

Over the past few days I was involved with the Planet Radio proposal by CHUM Radio, applying for a new FM licence before the CRTC.  I had been invited by Prem Gill to be part of their community advisory committee, Prem is host of ColourTV at City TV.

It was a great learning experience on how the CRTC licences radio
applications both for AM and FM.  As well, it was great to meet
all the CHUM and CityTV people who made this proposal come together,
particulary David Goldberg of Much Music in Toronto.

This was
very exciting to think about how a new music radio station could better
reflect the youth/young adult market in Vancouver and really play the
kind of music that I can not only culturally identify with, but a radio
station that can also reflect my diverse music collection with global
and world beat artists.  Check out and you will
find that CHUM is proposing to reinvent Canadian urban radio
formatting.  They propose to concentrate on 35% Canadian content
to feature Canadian artists that no other radio station would touch
except for Co-Op, CBC or some special niche programming slot.

hearing Chinese Canadian turntablist Kid Koala, Calgary born Leslie
Feist, or George Leach from the Sta'atl'imx Nation near Lillioet
BC.  These Canadian artists are expressing and contributing to
Canadian culture – but can't crack the tight radio formats of Top 40,
Adult Oriented Rock, Classic Rock, Soft Pop, or Cool Jazz or whatever
that station plays.  Mix this up with Angelique Kidd, Bob Marley,
Nelly Futado, Eryka Badu and you have a very vital music sound that
represents the social folk music of the 21st Century!  Very Cool

Does Vancouver need a new radio station that will play
all this great stuff on FM radio?  Does any other radio format
actually understand that Vancouver's population demographics include 4
out of 10 residents were born outside of Canada, or that 37% of our
population is visible minority?  Okay, the CBC does… but CBC
Radio One still struggles with balancing ethnic and cultural
stereotypes, Torontoistic perceptions of Canada while doing its best to
reflect the hearts, minds and souls of Vancouverites – and it does this
mostly through spoken word.  Planet Radio will capture the
soundtrack of Vancouver's youth and young adults, and inclusively
reflect our global heritage as well as our multi-generational and
multi-racial families and histories.

I hope the Planet Radio
proposal goes through and CRTC gives them a chance.  Most of the
other applicants I saw or heard about were proposing Indo-Canadian
ethnic radio.  Do we really need another traditional multicultural
radio station that divides its time slots according to ethnic
groups?  I think not.  We are now into the post-multicultural
phase of our city's evolution, if not our country's.  Let's
recognize where this country is going and who is actually making the
music.  It is intercultural people who can embrace and relate to
all cultures and recognize that to be Canadian, we have to be inclusive
– not exclusive.

Think Vancouver opens with CBC hosted reception at Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium was the perfect site for the 6:00 broadcast of CBC TV's
Canada Now” with hosts Gloria Macarenko and Ian Hanomansing.  This
kicked off the CBC TV portion of CBC's involvement with the Think Vancouver two week programming highlighting Vancouver's waterfront. I had earlier listened
to CBC Radio's On the Coast host Priya Ramu broadcast live from the
Vancouver Port authority interviewing Vancouver's harbourmaster – one
of the only women harbourmasters in the world!

Opening speeches were emceed by actor Jackson Davies (of
Beachcombers fame), as he introduced Jane Chalmers, CBC Vice President
of English Radio, and CBC Regional Directors of radio and television,
Joan Anderson and Rae Hull. All were very excited about Think
Vancouver's ambitious programming to make Vancouver's waterfront come
alive and to encourage Vancouver's residents to see it through fresh
eyes and ideas.

This was a fantastic party that featured incredible food, and some very
interesting presenters, plus a wonderful collection of guests! It was
very exciting to just see who in CBC's extended community was at this
very dynamic event. Each of the performances was hosted by CBC TV and
Radio hosts. Margaret Gallagher introduced Roger Lee, Gloria Macarenko
introduced the play “Women in Fish” by playwright Marie Clements.

Gloria Macarenko looked so outstanding in her black leather jacket and short
auburn hairdo that I had to ask Rae Hull, how she managed to have
“X-men” actor Famke Jannsen featured for Think Vancouver. Rae joked
that she has a lot of pull. Gloria seemed pleased with the compliment
and we had a nice chat about Gung Haggis Fat Choy, which she plugged
last year on Canada Now to highlight the CBC television performance
special, and for which I sent down some haggis won-tons. Gloria shared
with me that the Canada Now team always celebrates Robbie Burns Day
after the show with a haggis, and a German Canadian who can recite the
Burns “Address to the Haggis” poem. Hmm… maybe we can have Gloria
co-host Gung Haggis Fat Choy for 2006? What kind of Scottish name is
Macarenko? Is it MacArenko?

It was great to see so many people from Vancouver's Asian
communities attending the event; Larry Wong and Jennifer Lau from
Chinese Canadian Historical Society; Jim Wong-Chu, executive director
of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop; Don Montgomery from ExplorAsian
Festival; Sadhu Binning from the Punjabi Writers' Group; Angela Leung
from Association of BC Book Publishers; plus many other guests
including Christopher Gaze, Cecilia Walters, and many many more.

The evening featured talks and performances by:

Roger Lee: Working on the Waterfront about what it was like to
work Vancouver's wharves in the mid-1900's as a Chinese-Canadian.

Elisa Campbell
: Digging for Devlopment an in-depth look at develping Vancouver's busy coastline.

Dr. John Nightingale
: Cleaning our Coastline – the president of the
Aquarium addresses what we can do to keep our waterfront clean and
environmentally conscious.

Christos Dikeakos: Injecting Inspiration – exploring the
relationship between Vancouver local artists and the waterfront through
his own work.

Women in Fish: by Marie Clements – a multimedia play about the
capsize of the fishing vessel Loretta B in September 1962. this play
about 18 -year old survivor eileen Lorenz – 8 months pregnant with her
daughter Jaime, survives 6 hours in the freezing water, while the
issues of the dying fishing industry and the rlationships of the women
of Galiano Island within their community and the harvest of the sea are

Sadhu Binning: Walking on Water: a Poet's Journey – a poet
reveals how the waterfront breaths joy into his life and his poetry.

Reception party for BC Arts Council at Vancouver Museum

Great places for parties! The Vancouver Museum and the Vancouver Aquarium as BC Arts Council and CBC's Think Vancouver both took place on Monday, February 28th, 2005.

We started at the Museum where BC Premier Gordon Campbell made a big
announcement that will see millions of extra dollars spent on the BC
Arts organizations.  $25 million will help start up the BC Arts
Renaissance Fund to be supervised by the Vancouver Foundation. The fund
will leverage private sector support to build endowments for
arts and culture organizations and support strategic investments that
will assist organizations to develop innovative initiatives that
improve self sufficiency.

I attended with the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra, managed by Deb
Martin – my girlfriend. She introduced me to many of the players in the
Vancouver Arts scene. We saw  Don Shumka – BCAC Chair, George
Laverock of Festival Vancouver, Violet Goosen of the Vancouver Chamber Choir, David Y.H. Louie, Robert Kerr of Coastal Jazz and Blues Society. As well, we saw many friends such as Fred Wah representing Kootenay School of Writing, Donna Spencer and Jessica Scheider from Firehall Arts Centre; Adrienne Wong was there with Camyar Chai of  New World Theatre; Lindy Sissons who showed me her new brochure for the 2005 Vancouver International Children's Festival; Heather O'Hagan now with Craft Association of BC  who had attended Gung Haggis Fat Choy when it was still only 60 or 100 people.

Fred Wah

was our featured poet for Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2005. He told me that
when he was attending the Chinatown Chinese New Year Parade the week
afterwards, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell came up to him and said he
really liked his performance at GHFC. Wonderful!

Fred also noted how few writers and Asian Canadian Arts
organizations were in attendance at the BC Arts Council reception.
Gordon Campbell, in his speech to all the arts organizations, stated
that Vancouver won the 2010 Olympic bid because of its dymnamic arts
component that featured multicultural artists. Fred shared with me that
since the BC Government is highlighting Vancouver's Asian community and
multicultural arts groups, more Asian Canadian arts groups such as Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society,
and Gung Haggis Fat Choy should all be represented.  Perhaps we
will have to be more proactive in working with the BC Arts Council to
help promote the Asian Canadian arts organizations.